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by F.E. Higgins

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-312-56681-4
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

In what the author dubs a “polyquel” that partially bridges her Black Book of Secrets (2007) and its prequel Bone Magician (2008), Higgins sends a suddenly penniless young orphan from the filthy streets of Urbs Umida’s South Side to an extravagantly rococo estate house in search of vengeance for his family’s ruin. Thanks to hobbies shared with his recently deceased father, Hector is an accomplished riddler and an expert lepidopterist. Both serve him well as he pursues a certain one-eyed con man while making shift to survive on the Dickensian city’s gin-soaked mean streets and then to raise a crop of butterflies for a lavish dinner party presided over by Withypitts Hall’s decidedly weird Lady Mandible. Readers with a taste for lurid prose, macabre twists, riddles, exotic poisons, high-society caricatures, murderous schemes and scenes of stomach-churning degeneracy will find some or all of these in every chapter, and though the author trots in multiple characters and references from previous episodes, this one stands sturdily on its own. (Fantasy. 11-13)