This debut fantasy novel for middle grade readers has several things going for it. It’s set in Paris, and the main character, Maya, is a spunky, intelligent twelve year old with an oddly charismatic little brother named James. And the book has salamanders and a creepy beautiful glass-fronted cabinet. Maya is supposed to become the new Keeper of the Cabinet. The atmosphere reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe updated to the twenty-first century and with children.
However, the story took a long time to unwind until finally in chapter 11 (page 142) we learn “What Cabinet Keepers Keep.” I think you could condense the story into an episode of Once Upon a Time (our current favorite TV show which is back for a second season, yeah!), and it would work better. The book isn’t particularly long, only 256 pages, but it just seems s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d, if that makes sense. That said, I did like it, and I thought the ending was great.
Some people, including author Alexander McCall Smith, have been using the hashtag #10Wordbooks on twitter to share 10 word descriptions of their favorite novels and plays. You can check it out if you’re on Twitter; it’s kind of fun. Here are a couple of samples:
@text_publishing: JANE EYRE: ‘What’s that noise from the attic, Mr Rochester?’ ‘Nothing, darling.’ #10wordbooks
@semicolonblog Gone With the Wind: Scarlett loves Scarlett, thinks she loves Ashley, Rhett loves Scarlett. #10wordbooks
@mccallsmith One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in ten words: Story of inmates of psychiatric institution; warning – may contain nuts.#10wordbooks
The Cabinet of Earths 10 word description: Paris. Science and magic, tangled. Immortality, rejected. Salamanders are amphibious.