First published by Bloomsbury in 2010 (this edition by Bloomsbury in 2011)
Description (from Goodreads)
The sister is a knife-thrower in a magician's stage act, the brother an undertaker's assistant. Neither orphan knows of the other's existence. Until, that is, three terrible aunts descend on the girl's house and imprison her guardian, the Great Cardamom. His dying act is to pass the girl a note with clues to the secret he carries to his grave.
That there is the most awful book description I have ever seen! I am pretty sure that is not what is on the back cover of the book, but I can't find the book right now, so I'll just have to keep this one for now. Anyways, other than that fact, this one was a book that try as I might, I just couldn't get myself to enjoy.
((I found another description (from the author's website this time). I think it's better than that one above.))
A wonderfully exciting, dark, and gruesomely gothic middle-grade chiller, set in Victorian London. Perfect and pacy entertainment for both girls and boys of 8+.
For orphan Josie, life is good with Cardamom, the great magician who took her in as a baby and with whom she now performs her astounding knife-throwing act. But then three mysterious ‘aunts’ turn up - taking over the house and transforming into vicious, giant crows, in thrall to evil Lord Corvis. With his dying breath, Cardamon tells Josie to ‘seek the Amarant - and Mortlock’. So begins a terrifying quest for Josie and her newly discovered twin, Alfie, the undertaker’s mute, who soon realize that the legendary Amarant is a plant with power over life and death, which Cardamon, Corvis and Mortlock first discovered many years ago in Abyssinia.
Only the final destruction of the plant can quench Corvis’s growing powers and evil plans. Braving a circus of the living dead, and a terrifying encounter with the Amarant in a graveyard, Josie and Alfie will need all their courage and skills to save themselves and the world.
I'm not sure what it was about it that I just didn't like. The storyline itself was not bad. It was based on a rather interesting idea; it was the delivery that I found to be rather lacking.
The story focuses on two long lost siblings; they grew up separately, one - Josie - as an assistant to a magician and the other - Alfie - as an assistant to an undertaker. But circumstances lead to them being reunited, when three terrible aunts arrive at Josie's home and threaten her and her guardian, Cardamom. In the space of days, Cardamom is dead (yes, guess who did it!) and leaves Josie with barely just enough information to figure out where she came from. Joining forces with Alfie, the two children go through some pretty tough situations before finally figuring out the mystery.
So, as you can see, there is much to go with and it does have the potential to make a pretty good and fast paced story. But for me, it turned out to be a little disappointing. There were quite a few pretty gory scenes of birds devouring various things and of weird transformations, which would be pretty scary for the intended audience, but other than that, the story felt a bit flat. It didn't feel as if the two children were very anxious and scared, and as a result, it didn't make me feel scared.
But then again, I do concede that I read this from a different perspective that if I had been a younger reader. I think I will have felt much different after having read it if I were younger. So, if you do like the sound of it, then don't let my review put you off it. Each to their own!
To find out information about Jon Mayhew and his book, you can check out his website HERE.
Read for the: 100 Books In A Year Challenge 2011, British Books Challenge 2011