Saturday 4 November 2017

The Wonderling by Mira Bartók  {Reviewed by STELLA}
A woebegone creature without a name, referred to as Puddlehead, Plonker or Groundling but known as Number 13, has grown up in a horrible orphanage run by the bitter and nasty Miss Carbunkle. The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures is not a place you would want to call home. Groundlings, creatures of all kinds, some part human, part creature, live a miserable existence which consists of school, where they are reminded that their sole purpose is "to toil and suffer in silence", and work in the factory - a factory where Miss Carbunkle is up to some kind of no good. The Wonderling, as he will be known later, is a shy, gentle fellow, part fox, part dog, part human, with one ear, who stutters and tries to remain unnoticed. One day he sees a group of bullies tormenting a small creature and, despite his terror, steps in to rescue the bird-like Trinket. Trinket and the Wonderling become firm friends. Trinket, an enterprising and mechanically minded young bird, gives the foxy groundling his first name, Arthur. She's determined to escape the orphanage - no easy task with its fortifications, boarded-up gates, mastiffs pulling on their chains, and sneaks among the orphans willing to relay information to the nasty Carbunkle or the snivelling Mr Sneezeweed. Escaping the orphanage will be just the first in the adventures for the pair. After a chaotic yet successful escape, Trinket and Arthur find themselves on the road, heading towards the city of Lumentown. Trinket must first go to the sea to track down her Uncle, while Arthur, with an address, a scrap of blue blanket and a gold key, heads towards the town alone. He makes friends and enemies on the way and falls into the path of the charming, not altogether trustworthy Quintus, who helps him to learn a trade. Arthur’s attempts to find his family or find out who he is become more and more distant, and when he's captured and sent under to a filthy and grim world to work in the mine it seems like it's the end of the line. Will he ever find Tintagel Road, see his friend Trinket again or find out who he really is? Running alongside Arthur’s story is the mystery of Miss Carbunkle. Why is she so nasty and what is she up to in her factory? Why does she wear those ridiculous red wigs and who is her twin sister? There is plenty of adventure and magic in this fantastical world, with nods to Dickens and elements of steampunk. Add in a map, adorable illustrations and compelling writing all packaged in a divine hardback, Mira Bartok’s The Wonderling: Songcatcher is a wonder. The next in the series will be called The Singing Tree.

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