Young Tom comes from a line of storybook heroes. And by that I mean the actual heroes of such stories as “Jack the Giant Killer” and “The Frog Prince.” Whether a clever tailor or a charming prince, the hero in each of your favorite fairy tales was most likely a member of the Trueheart clan, acting on instructions from the staff at the Story Bureau, and with a little help from sprites who carry messages and throw in a little magic now and then.
Roo Fanshaw is a runty thief, good at hiding with her hoard of trinkets in tight spaces where big people can’t come after her. Before we have time to find out what made her this way, we see her taken from the scene of her drug-dealer father’s murder (which she witnessed) and passed along to a series of foster families, where she is even less loved and cared for than before.
The Hardscrabble children are (let’s face it) strange. Elder brother Otto never takes off the scarf he has worn since their mother disappeared, and speaks only in a private sign language understood only by his siblings. Youngest child Max is a walking encyclopedia with a head for heights. And in the middle is Lucia, the narrator (though she pretends to be anonymous), scared and vulnerable and mouthy and fiercely protective of her family.
The Walker family has just moved into the historic Kristoff House, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. They have just settled down to their first family meal in the place, when a witchy neighbor lady hurls the whole house—with Cordelia, Brendan, and Eleanor in it—into the combined reality of three novels written by her father, who built the house in 1906. Dahlia Kristoff, also known as the Wind Witch, wants the Walkers to find and deliver to her a magical tome called The Book of Doom and Desire.
It’s the fifth and final “Fablehaven” adventure, and the world is coming to an end. More of the world’s magical game preserves are falling to the Society of the Evening Star, which is collecting the five hidden talismans needed to open the demon prison of Zzyzx. Young Kendra and Seth Sorenson, along with their family and friends, are charged with protecting these powerful objects, and the five “Eternals” who must die before the bad guys can turn the key in the lock. But after a death-defying visit to the Australian preserve where the last artifact is housed, Seth is taken prisoner by the so-called Sphinx—actually a centuries-old Ethiopian slave who rebelled against his masters and now holds most of the keys to Zzyzx.
This book by the author of “The Firework-Maker’s Daughter” and “The Ruby in the Smoke” combines a fairy-tale concept with elements of the picaresque novel. That is to say, it presents a hero from humble origins, making his way through a corrupt world in a series of funny, ironic adventures. Seemingly set in Italy around the time of the Napoleonic wars, this story pokes fun at the foibles of people in an age quite different from our own – but not so different that we don’t feel the satire poking at us!
This is a delightful tale, full of charm and laugh-out-loud humor. Plus, the theme of a “blended family” resonates with the personal experience of many of us.
This hilarious fairy-tale spoof was written as a “fireside pantomime,” to amuse a group of English children between Christmas and New Year while staying in an unnamed European city. Moreover, it was published under the pseudonym “Michael Angelo Titmarsh,” if you please.