Winter comes to the sleepy town of Eerie-on-Sea, and Herbert Lemon – the 12-year-old Lost and Founder for the Grand Nautilus Hotel – discovers a girl about his age hiding, in his Lost and Found room, from a very angry man with a hook for a hand. Violet Parma was found abandoned as an infant in the Grand Nautilus Hotel, and she’s come back, determined to learn what would have taken her parents away from her. Is the Eerie legend of the Malamander – a part-fish, part-human creature – tied into the mystery? Everyone in town seems to know more about Herbert and Violet – and the Malamander – than they’re letting on.
I could not get enough of this first Legends of Eerie-on-the-Sea adventure! It’s got a very period feel – very British (the book was originally published in the UK), almost steampunk, but takes place in the modern day. There’s delightfully creepy, creaky worldbuilding; the Malamander itself shows up, wreathed in fog, but is far from mild-mannered, attacking if it feels threatened. There’s a fantastically oddball Book Dispensary, where selections are chosen by a mechanical mermonkey, and a cast of quirky, instantly memorable characters like the mysterious hotel proprietress, Lady Kraken; Mrs. Fossil, the eccentric beachcomber, and Jenny Hanniver, who works in the Book Dispensary. Everyone’s got a backstory, and the world-building is weird and wonderful. Kirkus calls it “H.P. Lovecraft crossed with John Bellairs”, and really, that’s the most spot-on quick take I’ve read. My advanced reader copy only had some of the illustrations in place, but from what I’ve seen, Tom Booth’s black and white artwork lends great shadow and mist to a shadowy, misty, seaside mystery; the characters have exaggerated, bold facial expressions and angular shapes, and every chapter is heralded with a load of tentacles to draw readers in. In other words, it all comes together perfectly.
I loved visiting Eerie-on-Sea, and can’t wait to take my kids (both library and the ones in my family) there for a stay. Malamander is the first in a planned trilogy, so pardon me, while I sit and wait.
Malamander is out in September, but you can read an interview with author Thomas Taylor here. You can read an excerpt and check out some postcards Herbie’s received at the Lost and Found, at the Eerie on Sea website. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that GeekDad gives five reasons to read Malamander, and they’re all very good reasons.
Malamander has a starred review from Booklist.
Candlewick has offered a great giveaway for MomReadIt and Malamander. THREE readers will win a Malamander gift set, containing an advanced reader copy of the book and a Malamander tote bag! U.S. addresses only, please, and no P.O. boxes. Check out the Rafflecopter giveaway and enter!