Saturday 30 June 2012

THE SEWER DEMON, by Caroline Lawrence, reviewed by Saviour Pirotta


There was a time when historical fiction tended towards the wordy and the noble. Authors would constantly take time out of the main narrative to impart what they considered essential information about past cultures. Then along came the ground-breaking Horrible Histories series which blew the reverence out of the water and catapulted historical fiction straight into the land of constant mirth.

Since then it's become de rigeur to add humour to any story about the past aimed at the 7 to 10 age group, with the jokes sometimes outweighing the story.  Caroline Lawrence is, thankfully, too  skilful an author to fall into this trap.  The Sewer Demon, her first title in a new series called The Roman Mystery Scrolls, has humour a plenty. It also has a tight plot, a very accurate sense of place and culture, and characters you will fall in love with.  Oh, and there's plenty of historical facts too, mainly about latrines, dodgy plumbing and fake fortune telling.  Perfect for both avid and reluctant readers.

The main charcaters are a beggar called Threptus and a soothsayer named Floridius who takes him under his wing. They are both beautifully drawn.  Threptus is every-boy, dodging bullies and trying to make sense of a world that seems to have dealt him a tough hand early on in life.  Floridius is a world-weary cheat with a sharp tongue and a heart of gold.  When a rich widow seeks Floridius' help in getting rid of a noisy demon that seems to be haunting the sewers under her house, she sets off a chain of events that will have young readers racing to finish the book.  An exciting and informative read indeed. Can't wait for the second installment in the series.



Penny Dolan said...

Sounds another interesting series from Caroline Lawrence and so agree with you about the need to handle humour carefully.

I have just finished the first book in her excellent and action-packed Western Mysteries series,"The Case of the Deadly Desperados" - and there's a second title out in that series as well.

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