THE HOLLOW BETTLE by Susannah Appelbaum

THE HOLLOW BETTLE

The Poisons of Caux, Book 1
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 9 - 12
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A clever premise drowns in ostentatious prose. Any casual meal is potentially fatal in Caux, where “[t]he rule of the land was poison or be poisoned.” After Ivy’s uncle disappears, the taster supposedly protecting her poisons a roomful of guards. The guards’ taster flees from punishment (tongue removal!) and becomes Ivy’s travel companion. At the plot’s heart is the hackneyed “Prophecy of the Noble Child,” who is destined to “banish the darkness from the forests, evil from where it dwells, and restore Caux to truth and light.” Although the text shows some wit (“It was generally assumed at the Hollow Bettle that Cecil Manx’s excuse for his inexplicable tardiness was his own death”) and enjoyable ghoulishness (“She did terrible things with cute bunnies and vinegar”), its gleefully showy prose suffocates itself with countless clauses and modifiers, ungraspable descriptions (“Her crown shone evilly”), repugnant disability stereotypes and an overdependence on the word “odd.” Narrative perspective shifts merely to impart information, and the climax—wicked king and queen deposed by the transformation of gems into butterflies—lacks internal logic. (Fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-375-85173-5
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2009




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