Saturday, August 20, 2022

Ely Plot

Ely Plot
by Joan Lennon
Recommended Ages: 9+

Pip has been brought up in the monastery of Wickit in the middle of a great English swamp since he was brought there as a baby in the arms of a woman dying of fever. Now he learns Latin and singing from the Abbot, does chores for the other monks and spends the balance of his time getting into mischief. One day, while scrambling around on the roof of the abbey, he discovers a gargoyle hidden inside the squat tower – and it discovers him. Perfect (short for Perfect Parting Gift) has been waiting a hundred years for a friend like Pip. Shaped like a dragon, she can actually fly and even swim, despite being made of stone. But mostly, she hides inside Pip's tunic, since discovery would probably lead to accusations of witchcraft.

Things are going about as well as they can for a boy and his gargoyle in medieval England until a trip to the cathedral city of Ely puts him on the spot. First, he's singled out for his singing talent, which puts the head choirboy's nose out of joint. Second, he and Perfect witness a plot to poison the teenage king, and are forced to go on the run with all the king's men (and some who aren't on his side) in full pursuit.

It's a charming and fun adventure full of historical color, magic, danger and characters who pop off the page despite being drawn in swift strokes. If I had to complain about anything, it's how quickly the story comes to a close, with some of the action actually happening "offstage," so to speak. I thought I saw potential here for a more extended adventure with Pip and the young king dodging danger and court intrigue coming to the backwater abbey. Instead, they make their narrow escape and that's about it – other than a tease of possible adventures to come.

This is the first book of "The Wickit Chronicles," which continues with Fen Gold, Ice Road and Witch Bell. Joan Lennon is the Canadian-Scottish author of such children's titles as The Ferret Princess, The Night of the Kelpies, Planet Hell, Walking Mountain and the "Slightly Jones Mystery" quartet. For another series of children's books featuring living gargoyles, may I suggest The Gargoyle in My Yard by Philippa Dowding?

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