VOYAGES IN THE UNDERWORLD OF ORPHEUS BLACK by Marcus Sedgwick

VOYAGES IN THE UNDERWORLD OF ORPHEUS BLACK

Age Range: 14 - 17
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An injured firefighter records eerie experiences as he searches for his brother during the London Blitz.

Following an earnest effort to restore sibling bonds sundered by his decision to register as a conscientious objector, Harry Black leaves his enlisted older brother, Ellis, in a pub that takes a direct hit only minutes later from a V-2. Waking up with head injuries, Harry woozily escapes the hospital to undertake the seemingly hopeless task of digging into the wreckage after his brother—describing his frantic efforts in disjointed notebook entries around prescient visions of future wars fought by machines that he illustrates with nightmarish views of hanging bodies and armies of shrouded figures in hazmat suits. Along with lurid details (notably a pocket full of glass eyes that Harry snatches from a warehouse fire which appear throughout as spot art) the authors, brothers themselves, add a mythic overlay by interspersing extended verse (occasionally rhymed) comments by Orpheus as observer and psychopomp and extending Harry’s quest into a dangerous, jumbled underworld that has its own king and pomegranate-eating queen. The attempt to shovel on another layer of significance by trotting in an otherworldly Kindertransport child and positioning her as symbolic of both true peace and a gender complement is ill conceived. Still, unlike his lyre-strumming alter ego, Harry does in the end bring off a rescue…albeit at a cost.

Atmospheric and provocative but hampered by a cacophony of messages. (Historical fantasy. 14-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0437-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Walker US/Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2019




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