Readers who enjoy the arch tone and endless instructive asides of Lemony Snicket might appreciate this first entry in The Enchanted Attic series, but most will be uninterested in the cardboard characters and anticlimactic plot.
The story begins promisingly with (temporarily) orphaned twins, a charming old bookshop and eccentric relatives. Ophelia is outgoing but bookish (she’s currently reading Hugo’s classic and her grandmother’s Bible), while Linus is the quiet, scientific one. They live with their mother’s aunt and uncle because their parents have recently embarked on a five-year voyage to study butterflies and moths. In short order the children discover an attic full of mysterious lab equipment, meet Walter, a handsome British boy who’s also a recent arrival, and accidentally summon Quasimodo from the pages of the book. Aided by Walter and Father Lou, a motorcycle-riding priest, the kids try to figure out how to keep Quasimodo hidden, send him back to his book safely and cope with a flood that threatens the town. The narrator, meanwhile, defines words, explains literary technique and casts aspersions on the faculty of the local college where he works as a janitor. It’s not clear how the narrator knows everything that happens, as he doesn’t appear as an active participant in the adventures, but since that’s just one of many incomprehensible details readers may simply overlook it.
Jam-packed and well-intentioned but ultimately dull and disappointing. (Fantasy. 11-13)