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by Robin Jarvis

Age Range: 10 - 15

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-15-216752-8
Publisher: Silver Whistle/Harcourt

The author of the Deptford Mice trilogy extends his trademark blend of fantasy and horror into an entirely imaginary world. In a remote corner of Hagwood reside the werlings, a tiny folk who, like the hedgehog, know one big thing—in their case, the art of “wergling,” or shape-changing. But young Gamaliel Tumpin miserably fails to master it, subjecting him to mockery from his bossy sister, his oafish schoolmates, and his acidulous teacher, despite kindly support from the wergling wunderkind Finnen Lufkin. While on a class trip under Finnen’s supervision, Gamaliel and some fellow students run afoul of the ghastly Frighty Aggie, a legendary wergler horribly malformed by indulging in the craft’s forbidden aspects. Saved by the Wandering Smith, a fugitive from the Faerie court, they are horrified to learn that the vicious Queen threatens their peaceful existence. The Smith has stolen the secret of her one vulnerability, and she has sent her monstrous Thorn Ogres to retrieve it; and now the forgotten race of werlings are in the way. Jarvis (The Final Reckoning, p. 1034, etc.) grants his werlings a credible society and an intriguing talent, and shifts adeptly from conjuring the blood-pounding horror of Frighty Aggie’s grisly lair to evoking the haunting serenity of the werlings’ mystical burial grove. While the twee names and one-note characterizations do grate in the slow-paced beginning, the narrative gradually builds tension to a furious, action-packed climax. Fantasy adventure fans will be grateful for the cliffhanger ending that promises another installment. (Fiction. 10-15)