Posted by Venus on Monday, May 4, 2015
Labels: intermediate book review
Illustrations by Vivienne To
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release Date: January 6, 2015
Twelve-year-old Grubb has never known anything beyond his miserable life as a chimney sweep. With the threat of living in a workhouse always hanging over his head, Grubb puts up with the insults and abuse from his cruel master. Until the day he makes a terrible mistake and finds himself stowing away in a trunk on a coach headed for London. When Grubb emerges, he finds himself the newest resident of Alistair Grim's Odditorium, a home like no other. Fueled by a glowing blue energy, with Samarai warriors as bodyguards, and talking pocket watches, Grubb knows that he has fallen into the most wonderful and terrifying place. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is sucked into an adventure that will require more from the young chimney sweep than he may be willing to give.
Feeling much like a fantasy steampunk version of Oliver Twist, complete with pickpockets, strange old men, and flying houses, I thoroughly enjoyed Alistair Grim's Odditorium, even if it did turn out to be book one of a series. Seriously, is it so difficult to just let us know from the beginning that we are at the start of a series?
There was a lot going on in the story. The lengthy nature of the text was due in part to the constant (but necessary) bits of exposition that were scattered within to keep the readers in the know. At times, this felt a bit convoluted and wordy, especially on the part of Mr. Grim whose info dump sessions felt almost like lectures. For the most part though, the information was vital to the telling of the story, even if it did slow down the pacing. What I wanted more of, and hope to see in the follow-up books, is a deeper knowledge of our many characters. Even Grubb felt a bit surface level and I desperately wanted more back story on almost everyone in the book. In particular, I was most interested in knowing something more about the enemy. Other than Mr. Grim's occasional info dumps, there is a great deal of mystery surrounding the Black Fairy and Prince Nightshade. To the point that the characters never felt like a true threat. Sure, they have evil plans and all, but since we know so little about them it is hard to say what they want beyond some magic.
Full of action, bravery, determination, and a bit of humor, this book is perfect for the kid who loves fantasy and doesn't mind if a book is a bit on the longer side.