Tuesday, September 3, 2019

MG Fantasy review of Malamander by Thomas Taylor, illustrated by Tom Booth

Malamander by Thomas Taylor
43679814Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Walker Books US  
Number of Pages:  320
Publishing in the US:  September 10th, 2019 
Source:  Publisher via Netgalley

Series: The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea

Opening Lines:  "You've probably been to Eerie-on-Sea, without ever knowing it."

In the summer the town of Eerie-on-Sea is bustling with tourists, but during the winter all of the beachcombers have left and the town is quiet again.   Not far from the pier, you'll find the Grand Nautilus Hotel.  And just shy of the hotel's reception desk,  within a small cubbyhole is twelve-year-old Herbie Lemon, resident Lost-and Founder hard at work matching lost things to their owners.  Then one day Violet unexpectedly comes climbing through his cellar window pleading for Herbie to hide her.  Violet hastily climbs into a trunk while Herbie throws lost coats on top hoping to disguise her location.  Then the manager of the hotel, Mr. Mollusc and a man in a sailor's coat with a large iron boat hook for a hand show up demanding to know where she's hiding.  After searching the room and coming up empty-handed, they leave and Violet returns shortly thereafter requesting Herbie's help once again, this time to find her parents.  When Violet was only a baby, her parents disappeared while staying at the hotel.  Violet was shipped off to an Aunt but is now back looking for answers.  Soon Violet and Herbie set out to uncover any possible clues to their disappearance and somehow become entangled in the local legend of the mysterious Malamander, a monster that is half-man and half-fish.                
Malmander is the first book in the Legends of Eerie-on-Sea series. It's sorta reminiscent of Lemony Snicket and maybe even a little Pseudonymous Bosch, especially The Name of This Book is Secret because of the early caution to "close this book and lock it in a tin box and cast it off the pier."  Advice that I chose to disregard.  When I saw the cover my interest was instantly piqued.  Usually, the fantasy stories I enjoy reading take place in settings where the characters are traipsing through the mountainside, attending magical schools, even within castles and old houses.  Well, I think I've found a new setting to add to the list, a salty seaside town.  Eerie-on-Sea is mysterious and filled with quirky people and places. There's a Book Dispensary where a tophat wearing mermonkey will fill your book prescription and select the book you need to read.  It's also a tad eerie place because it comes with its own legendary monster, the Malamander.  I have to admit that at first, I thought the monster was just this legend created to keep the troublesome kids away from the wreckage of the Leviathan, but it turns out the monster was much more than that.  And certainly more dangerous.     
Malamander is told from Herbie Lemon's perspective and is predominantly about Violet's search for her parents and the monster.  Herbie strikes me as kind, caring and intelligent, with a somewhat mysterious past of his own.  Five years ago he washed up on the shore of Eerie-on-Sea in a crate of lemons, with no knowledge of his past, not even his own name.  The owner of the Grand Nautilus Hotel gave him his name and set him up as the caretaker of the Lost and Foundery.  A job that Herbie takes very seriously.  Now, Violet, she's a wild-haired, brave girl who's ready for adventure.  She's rash where Herbie is more analytical.  But one thing is for sure, Violet is determined to find out exactly what happened to her parents.  Sometimes her choices lead to more danger for the two of them.  As they delve further into the mystery, their quest takes them all over the town of Eerie-on-Sea, even face to face with the legendary Malamander.  And although they don't find all the answers to what happened to Violet's parents, it's still a very satisfying story.  I suspect that some of this will be resolved in future books.   If you're looking for a mystery with a unique setting, quirky people, and lovely illustrations, I'd certainly give Malamander a read.  I certainly can't wait to see what adventures these two have next.  


  1. I found the cover intriguing too. Herbie certainly sounds mysterious from how he washed up from the sea. Interesting that the story was told from his POV since they were searching for Violet's parents.

    1. I thought so too. I believe we will learn more about Violet and Herbie's parents will also come to light. At least I'm hoping they will.