A wonderfully inventive, rich, and engaging tale.

LITTLE WADE & WATCHTOWER

ABIGAIL & THE GREAT GANG TRAP

A girl combats criminals with the help of a phantom and a mechanical giant in this first novel in a YA historical-fantasy series.

It’s 1899, and child-stealing gangsters roam the mean streets of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Nevertheless, 13-year-old Abigail Reid usually navigates the city alone since her busy father works three jobs and her mother is deceased. While returning home late one night, Abigail is attacked by the members of the Longshadows gang. Things look dire for the girl, but two unusual figures come to her rescue and defeat her assailants: Little Wade and Watchtower. The first is a “young, slightly blue” boy—who is, in fact, a ghost—and the second is a gigantic, “whirring, clicking, clanking, hissing, knocking, popping, grinding” intelligent mechanism. According to their business card, they’ve been “Protecting New York City’s Children since 1831,” free of charge. As their new client, Abigail receives protection and guidance for safe travel. But the duo has a larger plan to manipulate the gangs into fighting each other, using Abigail as bait (with her permission). The girl bravely helps to spring the trap and joins several resulting fights—not just to defeat the gangs but also the mastermind (or masterminds) behind them. In his debut, March tells a fantastically multifarious fantasy story that includes elements of crime and adventure, steampunk, and the supernatural, and a coming-of-age quest. To some, the violence may, like Poe’s stories, be considered “too sinister and chilling for youth”—although Abigail praises those tales as “magnificent and incredibly imaginative,” which certainly applies to this novel, as well. On balance, its story is deeply concerned with kindness and community. Explanations can be prolix, and the multipart conclusion extends beyond what feels like the natural climax. However, in such a splendidly entertaining book, these are mere quibbles.

A wonderfully inventive, rich, and engaging tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73514-331-6

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end.

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 1

Riggs spins a gothic tale of strangely gifted children and the monsters that pursue them from a set of eerie, old trick photographs.

The brutal murder of his grandfather and a glimpse of a man with a mouth full of tentacles prompts months of nightmares and psychotherapy for 15-year-old Jacob, followed by a visit to a remote Welsh island where, his grandfather had always claimed, there lived children who could fly, lift boulders and display like weird abilities. The stories turn out to be true—but Jacob discovers that he has unwittingly exposed the sheltered “peculiar spirits” (of which he turns out to be one) and their werefalcon protector to a murderous hollowgast and its shape-changing servant wight. The interspersed photographs—gathered at flea markets and from collectors—nearly all seem to have been created in the late 19th or early 20th centuries and generally feature stone-faced figures, mostly children, in inscrutable costumes and situations. They are seen floating in the air, posing with a disreputable-looking Santa, covered in bees, dressed in rags and kneeling on a bomb, among other surreal images. Though Jacob’s overdeveloped back story gives the tale a slow start, the pictures add an eldritch element from the early going, and along with creepy bad guys, the author tucks in suspenseful chases and splashes of gore as he goes. He also whirls a major storm, flying bullets and a time loop into a wild climax that leaves Jacob poised for the sequel.

A trilogy opener both rich and strange, if heavy at the front end. (Horror/fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1

Page Count: 234

Publisher: Quirk Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2014

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Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles.

A MAP OF DAYS

From the Peculiar Children series , Vol. 4

The victory of Jacob and his fellow peculiars over the previous episode’s wights and hollowgasts turns out to be only one move in a larger game as Riggs (Tales of the Peculiar, 2016, etc.) shifts the scene to America.

Reading largely as a setup for a new (if not exactly original) story arc, the tale commences just after Jacob’s timely rescue from his decidedly hostile parents. Following aimless visits back to newly liberated Devil’s Acre and perfunctory normalling lessons for his magically talented friends, Jacob eventually sets out on a road trip to find and recruit Noor, a powerful but imperiled young peculiar of Asian Indian ancestry. Along the way he encounters a semilawless patchwork of peculiar gangs, syndicates, and isolated small communities—many at loggerheads, some in the midst of negotiating a tentative alliance with the Ymbryne Council, but all threatened by the shadowy Organization. The by-now-tangled skein of rivalries, romantic troubles, and family issues continues to ravel amid bursts of savage violence and low comedy (“I had never seen an invisible person throw up before,” Jacob writes, “and it was something I won’t soon forget”). A fresh set of found snapshots serves, as before, to add an eldritch atmosphere to each set of incidents. The cast defaults to white but includes several people of color with active roles.

Not much forward momentum but a tasty array of chills, thrills, and chortles. (Horror/Fantasy. 12-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3214-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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