Series: Odditorium #1
Author: Gregory Funaro
Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy
Publication: January 6th 2015
Pages: 412 Pages, Paperback
Source: Thank you to Alma Books for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review!
Rating: 2.5/5 Cupcakes!
Twelve-year-old Grubb lives a hand-to-mouth existence in Victorian England, working as a chimney sweep under a cruel master. After an incident at an inn, he hides in the trunk of one of its guests, the enigmatic Alistair Grim, and is whisked away to his Odditorium, a wonderful flying house full of incredible mechanical features powered by an enigmatic substance called animus. Now apprenticed to Grim, Grubb begins to settle into his new life and find a new family in the eccentric crew of the Odditorium, when suddenly his new world comes under attack by the evil Prince Nightshade and he is propelled into a perilous quest. As he gets caught up in the struggle, Grubb will learn valuable lessons and discover remarkable secrets about himself and his new host.
When the opportunity arose to review this book I seized it excitedly. It sounded incredible, with wonderful characters, a flying house and magical adventures that I couldn't wait to embark on. However, I found myself sorely disappointed in this novel. Perhaps it was a case of it being me and not the book but I just didn't end up loving this book as much as I had hoped I would.
I think the biggest problem that kept me from loving this book as much as I could have, is the detachment I felt regarding the characters. Character connection is vital in order for me to love a book and whilst I liked the characters I never felt like I got to know them. Perhaps it was due to the premature arrival of calamity and disorder that the characters encountered several pages in which left me floundering in a haze of black faeries and skeleton armies, or maybe it was because I wasn't given enough of an opportunity to delve inside the cast's heads. I never felt like I got to know them, which makes me quite sad. There was minimal background information for the characters, minimal scenes that involved the characters expressing their emotions, the book seemed to lack the ability to welcome me into the characters' minds and my enjoyment levels plummeted because of that. The author created characters with an abundance of potential: Grubb, a kind and courageous chimney sweep, a mysterious sorcerer called Mr Grim, a mischievous banshee, gentle-hearted Nigel, a wonderful witch, a sassy fairy whose love of chocolate rivaled mine and a spunky talking pocket watch. These characters are incredibly interesting, of that I'm sure, I just hope that in the sequel I'll be able to see more of that.
The main thing that initially drew me to this book was the concept – a lonely, underfed chimney sweep who unlocks a mystical world filled with magic, adventure and a family of sorts. However, I felt like this book was being pulled in far too many directions for me to fully appreciate it. There were many steampunk elements, Greek mythology, Chinese mythology, dragons and samurai, banshees and fairies and sirens, ogres and trolls, the walking dead and skeleton armies...it was just too much. Too many things were either occurring at once or in rapid fire succession after the other which left me with a sore head and a feeling of disorientation as I tried to take in everything. Not only did this leave me feeling confused but it severely affected the pacing and my ability to become immersed in the story. Action scenes were haphazardly thrown around and I never felt like I was given time to recover from the conglomeration of activity before I was hurled into the next scene. I also felt as if, due to all the movement in the chapters, this detracted from the characters and their emotions. I felt as if I was never allowed time for me to settle into the story and form a bond with the characters and find my bearings. This also had an affect on the otherwise charming writing style. The book initially began with a style that echoed that of classics I've read, it oozed character and I found myself loving the way the book was written, however, as the action unfolded, it morphed into a disjointed style with lots of telling and not showing.
This turned into quite a negative review, didn't it? It wasn't all bad - several of the characters were spunky and charming and I enjoyed the relationships that developed between Grubb and the other quirky characters in the Odditorium and there were moments that had me turning the pages slightly faster. Like I said, I also loved the writing style for the first few chapters of the book.
All in all, when I picked up Alistair Grim's Odditorium I was certain that I was going to fall in love. However, all the genres it tried to include seemed to be haphazardly sewn together, the pacing felt far too fast which left me feeling as if I was constantly being hurried along, wrapped in a flurry of chaos; the lack of character expression and character development also meant that there were several things that prevented me from adoring this book as much as I thought I would. However, despite me not being able to appreciate it fully, this book has many good ratings, maybe I'm just being a black sheep again!
I give it: 2.5/5 CUPCAKES!