Monday, 10 June 2019

Malamander, by Thomas Taylor

(Very sorry - this is late!)

Malamander is positively drenched in the atmosphere of a seaside town in winter. Storms blow in, sea mist drifts through the streets, and in Cheerie-on Sea, the first two letters fall off the town sign. In the Grand Nautilus Hotel, Herbert Lemon is busy – ish – in his job as Lost-and-Founder, with responsibility for sorting and storing lost stuff. Then, one day, a girl scrambles through his window. She’s in a panic, because she’s being chased by a sinister figure, a man in a long sailor’s coat that’s drenched in sea water, with a large iron boathook where one of his hands should be.

And so it begins. The girl is called Violet Parma and she’s searching for her parents, whom she and everyone else lost when she was only a baby. The place she lost them was this very hotel, and now she wants Herbie to help her find them – after all, he’s a Lost-and-Founder, isn’t he? She won’t take no for an answer, and soon Herbie is caught up in her adventure, and the story of the mysterious malamander and its search for its lost egg. And Boathook Man? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out where he fits in.

This is a lovely rich fantasy, permeated with the atmosphere of the seaside in winter. There’s a terrific cast of characters, many of them with names that continue the theme – the hotel staff are Mr Mollusk, Lady Kraken and Amber Gris. Then there’s Jenny Hanniver, who keeps the Eerie Book Dispensary, and Mrs Fossil with her Flotsamporium. It’s a tale full of mystery, danger and treachery, but though you’ll catch your breath sometimes, you always know that Herbie and Violet, brave, loyal and funny, will eventually triumph.


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