Thomas Taylor, Malamander, Walker Books Ltd, May 2019, 304 pp., RRP $17.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406386288
Herbie Lemon is in charge of the Grand Nautilus Hotel’s Lost-and-Founder department. His role is to unite objects and their owners, but once 100 years has passed Herbie can keep the object. That’s his payment. He finds Violet Parma in his domain, and joins her in her search for her lost parents who had disappeared while searching for the Malamander and being chased by the malevolent Boathook Man. What is his relationship to the wreck of the Leviathan? Is Sebastian Eels, the author, friend or foe and what’s his relationship with Violet? Together Violet and Herbie manage to outsmart many of the conniving adults in Eerie-on-Sea, at times aided and abetted by other friendlier residents.
Thomas Taylor, originally better-known for his illustrations, has created an interesting fantasy world with sea themes, lots of quirky sea-themed names (Mr Mollusc, Lady Kraken, Mrs Fossil), an overbearing and threatening monster in the form of the malamander, which is thought to be the source of eternal life but also the cause of all the town’s disappearances and bad luck over the years. There’s also the Eerie Book Dispensary and its automaton the Mermonkey, which, once paid the correct fee, recommends books to help or occasionally hinder the visitor.
Middle school readers are sure to enjoy this fast-paced fantasy and are likely to be delighted to know that it is the first of a series. The archetypal characters are well-formed and believable, which is a strength for the intended audience.
My copy of the book, a pre-publication paperback, is beautifully packaged in its own boxed slip-case and this will make it a lovely gift as well as a treasured bookshelf item. It’s also available as an e-book in PDF and reflowable versions.
Reviewed by Maureen Mann