by Sam Gayton
Recommended Ages: 10+
What with one thing and another, they don't even make it back to Tumber before Greta has changed her mind about Hercufleas. They end up having to go on a huge, dangerous quest together before she believes her flea friend can save her town. Along the way, he has to discover a hero he never knew he had within him - one brave enough and wise enough to refuse to fight evil with evil, yet somehow strong enough to defeat a rampaging giant before he comes back to Tumber to guzzle the last survivors.
This is an amazingly entertaining story, for an adventure featuring a bloodsucking parasite. It unfolds in a strange and whimsical world where Czars leave doomsday weapons in Arctic fortresses guarded by mouseketeers; where the woodn't (woods you wouldn't want to visit) is full of deadly creatures such as grizzly squirrels and a cross between rattlesnakes and oak trees called, ahem, rattlesnoaks. It has a flightless bird that can be ridden like a horse, a pig that can shoot bullets out of its snout, a musical instrument that enables its player to fly, and various other magical and alchemical innovations. It also depicts feelings of grief, anger, guilt, and despair with touching honesty, respectfully observing Greta's quest for healing in a world that can, nevertheless, never be the same for her.
Sam Gayton is an English author and playwright whose other books include The Snow Merchant, a.k.a. The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn, His Royal Whiskers, and Lilliput. I already want to see more of his work. This book, published in 2015 in the U.K., is scheduled for U.S. release Oct. 4, 2016. This review is based on a pre-publication proof made available through Netgalley dot com.