Victorian-era adventure with a supernatural stock of magical and mythical players.
Grubb (“no first or last name”) was a doorstep drop-off adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Smears. With the death of compassionate Mrs. Smears, he is left in the care of Mr. Smears, a brutish chimney sweep. Grubb is forced to sweep chimneys for no pay while nasty Mr. Smears broods over beer. After a mishap involving soot and a horrid hotelier, Grubb hides in the trunk of a parting guest to avoid a beating. The guest is Alistair Grim, and when Grubb exits the trunk, he is in the titular Odditorium, a collective of “Odditoria” (among them a talking watch and a trickster banshee). Grubb is invited to work for Grim under the proviso that he won’t reveal magical secrets, but when he unwittingly breaks that cardinal rule, he attracts Grim’s nemesis. Battles, kidnapping and sorcery ensue. The series opener’s Anglophile charm is occasionally muddied with an abundance of character introductions. To navigate this bevy of names and species, there is a character list and glossary. Black-and-white illustrations somewhere between daguerreotype and manga supplement the vivid textual imagery. Grubb’s cheat-to-the-audience moments at either end of the story are frustrating, if widely spaced (“My apologies, but I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word”).
Verne-ian fantasy and reversal of fortune à la Dickens will lure readers into this good-vs.-evil series debut. (Fantasy. 10-13)