Review Blog

Mar 12 2013

A Tangle of Traitors by F.E Higgins

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The Phenomenals series, bk 1.Macmillan Children's Books, 2013. 223 pp. ISBN: 9780330507554.
(Ages: 9-13) In the first book of this new series F.E Higgins is introducing the reader to her new world and the characters that her new series will follow. The story centres around the individual tales of four characters who towards the end of the book find themselves inextricably linked and are named in their infamy 'The Phenomenals'. We are treated at the beginning of the book to the definition of Phenomenals as 'particularly vile and are characterized by their tendency to gather in small groups and their ability to come and go unnoticed'.
The story is set in Degringolade where a bubbling tar pit holds the wretched spirits of all the murderers and criminals the town has condemned. A city of superstition, Deringoglade is characterised by card-readers and frightened villagers carrying bags of lucky charms and stepping over cracks to ward off evil. We are introduced to the characters through a narrator who little by little gives us further glimpses into who they are. We learn about Vincent the picklock, who arrived in Degringolade by chance and immediately runs into trouble. We find out about Folly, the secretive loner who lives in a tomb and stalks the shadows of Degringolade and Citrine, the heiress to a huge fortune who only wants the truth. And then there is Jonah, the deadly harpoonist who survived being swallowed by a whale and will fight for righteousness.
There is a whole other vocabulary to this world Higgins has created and it is quickly picked up as the book progresses as it has commonalities with the English language. 'Kew' is said in place of thank you and 'spetivus' seems to mean wow or awesome. The gadgets and machines that the people use are also different, as is the terminology associated with them. A trikuklos for example appears to be some kind of motorised three-wheeled bicycle that must be 'pedalated'.
When each of the four characters become embroiled in the same mess there is only Folly's secret hiding place and their joint knowledge and skills to keep them safe and save the day. But the danger has not passed and the whole city is in trouble. Why can't anyone else see what is happening? The Phenomenals, as they have been penned by the Degringolade newspaper reporter, will need to work together if they want to make everyone in the town see what has been happening right under their noses. The story will be continued in the next instalment of the series A Gaggle of Ghouls.
Nicole Smith-Forrest

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