The Raven Mysteries: Diamonds and Doom by Marcus Sedgwick
|The Raven Mysteries: Diamonds and Doom by Marcus Sedgwick|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Once again Castle Otherhand is at risk, and it is up to long-suffering Edgar, the resident raven, to solve the problem and heroically save the day. This time the family have run out of money, and the castle is to be sold. Edgar is faced with gun-toting flamingos, a mystical space time vortex thingummy, and far, far worse . . . estate agents.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 2011|
|Publisher: Orion Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Edgar is on holiday. Well, according to him, it's a conference where ravens meet to discuss all manner of important things, and where they occasionally have a bit too much to eat and drink. Whatever. The point is, he's not there when the last gold piece is taken from the treasury and spent, and Castle Otherhand is put up for sale. The adults don't seem to be doing anything constructive about the situation, so with Edgar away enjoying his birdly junketings, our favourite Goth Solstice and her ever-hungry brother Cudweed decide to sort things out by themselves. And if you've ever read a Raven Mysteries book before, you will know right away that that means by the time Edgar flutters home, chaos, mayhem and disaster will be the order of the day.
This is (sob!) the last of the six projected books in the series, and the author has allowed his silly bone free rein. The afore-mentioned vortex thingummy has produced some seriously weird stuff, with that gently gross quality beloved of small boys of all ages. A moose has appeared in your bedroom? Really? That's odd. Oh, it's disappeared again? Great, problem solved. It's left a smelly, steaming little gift on your bedside rug? Ah. Time to go out for a walk, and hope everything's fixed by the time you get back. It's the only sensible thing to do.
The slightly-Goth, weird-family thing is nothing new in children's literature, but what is special about this series is the character of the narrator. Edgar is wry, vain and cynical by turns, but his observations on the denizens of the castle from that horrible little monkey beloved of Cudweed to Lord Valevine (so far off his trolley he can't even see the wheels) are spot on. The raven is so old he can't remember his own age, but he has certainly been at the castle for centuries and he has never, ever met a family as crazy as the present one. This time he has the added problem of a younger raven to train, but as ever he rises magnificently to the challenge. Utterly, gloriously daft events follow one another without a pause for breath, including alligators in gravy and stairs made of raspberry jelly. One can imagine the talented Mr Sedgwick returning from months spent writing a book for older readers in dank and Gothic gloom, rolling up his sleeves and diving into another Raven Mystery in sheer, hysterical relief. What is he going to do now the series is over? And what about us? We may have to start a petition.
This book is ideal for all young readers, even the reluctant ones, or those fairly new to reading alone: the words are well spaced, and the joyous absurdity forces you to turn the page. The wonderful illustrations by Pete Williamson not only make the meaning of the words clear but enhance them, encouraging the reader to pause and enjoy their delightful dottiness. Worthy of special mention are the chapter headings: each one is a whole page illustration with an amusing statement or observation at the centre. For example, the advice that you should stay in your room on April Fools' Day helpfully adds that only three servants were hurt last year, which is a record, apparently.
Accompanying the books is an excellent dedicated website where you can find out more about the strange Otherhand family and the history of the castle. Did you know, for example, that there was once a Mrs Edgar? You can also be sent further information which is called, endearingly, GothFroth. Who could resist? This book may be the last in series, but it will remain fresh for a long time in the minds of young (and not quite so young) readers. If you don't yet know Edgar, Solstice and the others, it's time you got reading.
Further reading suggestion: Bookbag has been happy to review the whole Raven Mysteries series. We particularly recommend Lunatics and Luck and Vampires and Volts. Older readers will enjoy Sebastian Darke: A Buffalope's Tale by Philip Caveney, another story told by a heroic and brilliant (well, in his own eyes) animal without whom his humans couldn't survive five minutes.
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