Review Blog

Feb 10 2010

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade

cover image

HarperCollins, Australia, 2009.
ISBN: 9780732290443
(Ages 12+) When he hears of an unusual baby in a gypsy freak show, Mr Socrates goes to investigate, buys the baby and takes him home. Although Modo is a remarkably deformed and unattractive baby, he has a special ability. He is able to soften or morph his features so that he resembles another person entirely for a few hours at a time. By the age of fourteen, specially trained by Mr Socrates, Modo is left out on the street to prove himself. He meets another agent, the beautiful Octavia Milkweed, and they team up to investigate the disappearance of a group of orphans and find the evil Dr Hyde.
This book is described as 'The start of a fantastic new series set in a gritty, steampunk world'. Not having heard the term previously, I resorted to Wikipedia. Steampunk is 'a sub-genre of science fiction and speculative fiction, frequently featuring elements of fantasy...set in an era or world in which steam power is still widely used... with fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne...'. Set in the year 1860 in Victorian London, this novel is a dark and exciting trip through the sewers with fascinating characters and gruesome inventions and lives up to the blurb.
With similar elements to Pullman's His Dark Materials, Cornish's Monster Blood Tattoo series and a touch of Skulduggery Pleasant, this will no doubt appeal to the more mature readers of fantasy and adventure who can cope with the dark side. Personally, I can't wait for the next book!
Jo Schenkel

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