A lonely orphan endures monsters and mayhem in a house on a haunted hill.
After being sold to finance her parents’ journey to the New World, Sophie, a plucky white English girl, finds herself delivered to Catacomb Hill, a mysterious island-mansion that is built atop catacombs and surrounded by a sea teeming with carnivorous monsters. Apprenticed to Scree, the mansion’s caretaker, Sophie’s task is to feed bones to the monsters, lest they rise up to devour the house and its inhabitants instead. She is also forced to serve the shrewish mistress of the manor, nicknamed Battleship, and her odious twin offspring, who reek of formaldehyde and dream of being famous actors. Though she’s been told that there is no way out of bondage, Sophie is determined to escape by any means necessary. Salter’s love of storytelling and fantasy is evident in this debut novel, and in Sophie, Salter creates a truly tenacious and indomitable female protagonist. The novel’s wealth of material, which includes sea monsters, an eerie house seething with secrets, fantastic machines, a mysterious inventor, flying horses, and insufferable aristocrats, is at times overtaken by its sheer abundance. Overambitious worldbuilding keeps the rules that govern the story’s monster-laden England from clear definition, and, as a consequence, key characters feel underdeveloped.
An adventure-filled tale that intrigues despite its flaws.(Fantasy. 10-15)