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Thursday, September 24
Alistair Grim's Odditorium
Written by Gregory Funaro
My rating: ★★★★½
Date of publication: January 6, 2015
Age: Grades 4 - 7
Themes: love & family relationships, mythological creatures, magic, Steampunk Victorian England, collecting, good vs. evil
Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master. All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim's trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own. But when the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium's magic from falling into evil hands—and his new family from suffering a terrible fate. (inside flap summary)
I will say it now: this action-packed adventure is one heck of a ride. I loved it, I really did. Grubb is about the most endearing, loyal, lovable hero I've read in a while. Raised first on the love of Mrs. Smears, he doesn't lose that "magic" after her death, despite the heartbreak and then hard labor as a chimney sweep. And what better place to build that magical love further than in a whole house full of oddities that all have some history of heartbreak? Mr. Grim and Nigel, in particular, are favorites for their depth that Funaro reveals in glimpses of back story. All of it, really, comes down to love. But I'm getting too philosophical! Moving on...
The plot, seriously, kicks off with such a bang and an onslaught of such amazing events (and never really stops!) that I was nervous for a bit that it would all be too much. I mean, we're dealing with a mysterious magical power that draws in several cultural mythologies into a steampunk-ish Victorian England. There's a lot going on! But it worked. I mean, I'm still having trouble putting my finger on what made it work exactly, but it did. Perhaps Mr. Grim's original collector/antiquer profession provided the needed foundation for samurais fighting sirens with the help of a banshee in a flying factory of a building (it is called the Odditorium for a reason!). The writing gets your imagination going and, with a little help from a few fantastic illustrations, really builds the whole exciting scene into your brain.
So why not a full five stars? The missing half star is due in part to the trouble I had along the way keeping track of all the different sources of energy (Red godly power? Blue animus? Yellow fairy dust?), and how they all interacted or were limited or blocked, and how that all in turn controls the plot decisions. There were a couple times that I just had to go with it, instead of figuring out if that would really work in this book's setting. Grubb grabs onto it unbelievably quick, and I felt a tad left behind. Also, there's a LOT of questions left unanswered—all in preparation for the sequel, of course!—but still leaves me a tad confused, on top of everything else. I imagine younger readers will grab on as quick as Grubb, though.
Will I eagerly jump on the next book? You bet. Will I recommend it to everybody? For sure. This is the perfect series for lovers of Fablehaven (it's really on par with all of Brandon Mull's books, actually), Percy Jackson and—honestly, it's so cliche—but it really had some elements of the early Harry Potter books. And I don't give that comparison often! Toss in some Roald Dahl, too (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to mind).
Find it at your library or on Amazon
I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review