Macnair’s debut novel combines young-adult adventure and shameless puns in a frothy tale of a young boy on a wild quest across a fantasyland quite similar to our own.
In young Thomas’ world, words hold great power, and the Ministry of Text exerts an iron control over all language. When he accidentally stumbles across a strange object bearing unknown words, he soon sets off on a journey that takes him across the land—all the way to the Ministry itself, where he’s summarily enrolled in the Ministry’s Academy. The Academy introduces Thomas to new ideas, such as Scribbling and Wordology, and to new friends, including the mischievous older student Webster. Thomas also hears a rumor that the Ministry is secretly working to reconstruct the Original Word—the source of all language and all power, which, legend has it, was shattered by the Great Vocabulist ages ago. Thomas and Webster go on to travel with a band of dread Word Riders, and they encounter a host of furious fancies and a plethora of punishing puns. One startling revelation, about the legendary Scribbler Knight Artie Pendragon, hinges on wordplay—as does the book as a whole. The wordplay, in fact, is the book’s strongest element, although it ranges from the clever—“Chestnut stallions, roasting in the summer heat, thundered into the village.”—to clunky and cringe-worthy—“A cloud of warm aroma belched from the bakery.” The small details of the novel’s fictional world are often intriguing, as when Thomas and Webster use a rat-powered paddle boat. The plot offers few surprises, but the riotous nature of the colorful characters and the author’s gleeful way with wordplay more than makes up for it.
A cheeky YA tale suffused with a love for language.