The first 10-15% of the book or so (what’s up with those first 10%’s recently?!) wanted me to retreat to my parents’ attic with a tin box nicely filled with Milky Ways (I never knew the US version is the same as a Mars bar *shakes head* crazy Americans). One of the first notes I made was “Woop, woop! It’s like a new Roald Dahl book!“. And those first couple of chapters really had the same level of quality incorporated in them. There is silliness, adventure, and magic. Not the ‘waving-a-wand-‘ or ‘shooting-fireballs-out-of-your-hands’ kind of magic, but real magic, children’s magic.
Then, at around 20%, the story lost me a little. The dialogues were too childish for my taste and reminded me of stories I’ve written myself when I was still in primary school. When one character was literally trying to strangle another character over a couple of harmless words, I was like…mkay.
Just when I started to feel like I could make heads nor tails anymore of the story, it all slowly started to click together. In the end, it makes sense and almost every loose thread is resolved. But before we reach the end, there’s a scary asylum, a child murderer, a housekeeper with a severe mental disorder, and ghosts! Oh, and we finally get an answer to how the Smurfs came to be, sort of (that one was pretty cool actually).
So yes, when you’re expecting MG Fantasy, these kinds of things can be pretty confusing. I came across a few scenes where I felt this book shouldn’t be read by children in the first place.
“After his strife
he’ll use his knife
And slit their throats wide open“
I’m not saying you can’t mention throat-slitting in a children’s book, but this part was simply too darn sinister for one.
A little more about the story: it all starts with the orphanage of Dreams and Hopes, which is run by the gentle Mr.Penny. When the orphanage gets into financial trouble and a new owner, plus a new staff in the form of the horrible Ms.Finn, is installed, the place turns into a nightmare. When Timothy (unknowingly) runs off to Marzipan Mountain, he encounters a giant mouse called Leopold, and his friend Edwin, a giant caterpillar, there. This part of the story feels like a nice trip to Alice in Wonderland. Except for the childish dialogues and emo behaviour…
Meanwhile, we also read about what’s taking place at the orphanage ever since Timothy left, until both storylines intertwine again.
For a main character, I hardly felt any sympathy for Timothy. He often seemed like a bit of a cruel boy with temper issues. The characters I liked the most are Mr.Penny, whom, for some reason, I can’t help but imagine looking like this
, and Borgerov, a wonderful earthly version of Chewbacca with a name to be envious of if you’re a grumpy person like me.
If you think that I didn’t like this book, you’re wrong. It’s a wonderful mystery with lots of different elements and layers to it. There’s humour (with the occasional fart joke), adventure and fantastical creatures. Also, it’s not about Timothy climbing a mountain, it’s about celebrating life and freeing yourself from limited thinking. I loved a quote at the end of the book about New Year and the madness of saying goodbye to a number while at the same time saying hello to another one.
“After all, time is time, it doesn’t materially change. People change, fashions change and seasons change. But time keeps the same, simply passing. Besides, you don’t go to bed every night celebrating tomorrow. How can you celebrate something that doesn’t come around for everyone?“
I think I’ll translate this bit into Dutch and shove it into my neighbours’ mailbox in the hope they won’t throw heavy fireworks in my yard until 10am next time. Bah humbug!
I’m giving this book three brownies, meaning I liked it.
A big thank you to L. Sydney Abel for providing me with a copy of his book in exchange for an honest opinion!