Barnaby Grimes: Legion of the Dead by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
|Barnaby Grimes: Legion of the Dead by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The third book in the Barnaby Grimes series is as fresh as the first but moves into fantasy/horror. It might be a little too much for a sensitive child but the book is excellent. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: July 2008|
Barnaby Grimes is a tick-tock lad. They deliver letters and packets all over the city and - tick tock - time is money. Barnaby highstacks over the roofs of the city to make his deliveries and can charge more for his services than those who have to go along the street – the cobblestone-creepers. One autumn morning the sky the colour of an Indian Runner duck egg he takes a box of links to make finger chains to Ada Gussage in Adelaide Mansions. When the dead are buried those who can afford it have a chain attached to the fingers of the deceased which leads to a bell. Then, if it should transpire that the burial has been a little premature, assistance can be summoned.
Adelaide Mansions are all but deserted. Ada is used to death and isn't worried by the tales of hauntings in the local graveyard but others are not quite so confident. Barnaby just wants to get away from the area but on his way back he finds himself 'encouraged' by some local gang members to attend the big funeral the following day. It's the start of an adventure which will see Barnaby involved in an underwater dual with a sea monster and fearing that he's having hallucinations when he sees the dead rising from their graves.
We've met Barnaby Grimes twice before, in Curse of the Night Wolf and Return of the Emerald Skull and all three books are rollicking adventures. The first two were a mystery/horror mix but the latest book moves into fantasy and horror. I warned with the first two books that there were some parts which a sensitive child might find disturbing and this applies even more so to Legion of the Dead. There are several rather gruesome descriptions of dead bodies rising from their graves – and we're left in no doubt about the manner of their death. This isn't a criticism – you'll know your child and whether or not the book is suitable.
It is a real page-turner of a story though. Paul Stewart is an excellent writer by any standards, but who happens to write for children and what he delivers is a quality story with a neat and complex plot. He never talks down to, or patronises children – he expects them to put effort into the book and rewards it well. Barnaby is the sort of young man that children will love – he's courageous and adventurous, but he's also hard working, independent and thoughtful. There's plenty to think about too. The location – a vaguely Dickensian city – is brought to life and the contrast between how people lived then and now is vivid.
As if that wasn't enough there's the joy of the illustrations by Chris Riddell. We've long been a fan of his books at the Bookbag and his illustrations bring this book to life. There's a picture of some members of the Rat-Catchers Gang, with their coats made out of rat skins, tails and all, which fascinated me and the illustration of the gang members on their way to a funeral captured the situation perfectly. The combination of Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell takes the best from two different worlds and produces something quite special.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
For an entirely different type of story but one which we think that you might enjoy you might like to have a look at our review of The Sky Inside by Clare B Dunkle.
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