by Paul Durham
First sentence: “
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Content: There’s a lot of death — most of it off screen — and some pretty intense moments. Throw in a lot of difficult names of places and people, and this is not for the younger set, unless they’re pretty strong readers. Even so, it’d be in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.
Rye O’Chanter has spent her life roaming the streets of Village Drowning, from her home in Mud Puddle Lane to her mother’s store to her the in her friend owns across the village. It’s not been a tough childhood, even though her father has been gone for years, but life in Village Drowning under the protection of the strict, and somewhat cruel, Earl Longchance hasn’t been a walk in the park, either.
The one day, the village is threatened by a beastie that everyone thought was extinct: the Bog Noblin. It had passed into lore: beasties that will eat you if you go outside after dark. The thing is, though: they really do. And when this one brings a heap of trouble on the village (partially because of the stupid Earl), it’s up to Rye — sort of — to stop it.
But she can’t do it on her own. Thankfully, a helpful stranger she calls Harmless shows up at just the right moment.
I’ll say this to start: I ended up liking this book more than I did in the beginning. I had a lot of unanswered questions at the beginning; almost too many for my taste. It was frustrating that I didn’t know the why, or who, or what. Then again, neither did Rye (because of information her mother held back). But, once I started getting answers — almost halfway through — the book picked up for me, and I actually enjoyed the adventure. There was a moment when I was afraid that Rye wouldn’t be allowed to be the hero of her own book (and that the guy was going to Save the Day), but Durham pulled through and allowed Rye to do what needed to be done.
The other thing is that even though there’s going to be a second book, this really is a stand-alone story, and that’s refreshing. I enjoyed Rye and the relationships she had with those around her (her younger sister, Lottie, is adorable). I loved how Durham showed a happy family with caring relationships, and yet Rye was a clever and capable and brave and tough girl. That was definitely something I liked.
So, in the end, this was a really solid fantasy.