The Tiger's Egg (Wednesday's Tales) by Jon Berkeley
|The Tiger's Egg (Wednesday's Tales) by Jon Berkeley|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: The first book in this brilliant series proves impossible to match, but the inventive story of Miles and his lost origins is almost as delightful and entertaining.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: May 2008|
|Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books|
The hopeless case continues... Looking back on this site to my review of Jon Berkeley's first book I was disappointed by how little I had put. Spoilt for riches as I was by such a warm, exciting, inventive and original adventure story, I mentioned nothing that had delighted me so much with any conviction.
Well, I must have spread the word to some extent, as a good friend has had the follow-up on a wish list for me, so with thanks to her I can read on. And this time I feel sure I can write more about the book - if only because for the first time there are faults to discuss.
Having eagerly thrust The Palace of Laughter on my partner I was surprised when she returned it saying she found the jolly exuberance of the starting sections had paled towards something akin to normality by the end. I feel that with this sequel she will find this even more the case.
Foolish as I might have been to start a book too eagerly, and too late at night, but I hit the quarter-mark on my first stint, and only then did it occur to me how unusually usual the story had been. For sure, everything that had happened had been imbued with the intrigue cast upon it by the continuing quest(ions) of the hero, Miles Wednesday, and what had preceded this volume, but...
The circus world Miles inhabits is still tainted by the after-effects of the drama of book one, wherein... no, I still can't bring myself to detail everything - find out for yourself (PLEASE). Here the saga continues, as the baddy escapes, the details about Miles's missing (or dead) parents continue to mount, and the dodgy clairvoyant Doctor Tau-Tau seemingly mistakenly leads Miles to peril.
Again it is a case of Miles looking for something everyday - in this instance, primarily, facts - only to be forced to engage with other elements in a greater search, as the egg of the title proves to be the focus for many.
The writing continues to be a delight - the pattern of double-barrelled adjectives reinforced, the brilliant humour and jollity of the adventure all helping to breeze the reader along at a rate of knots. Here there are fewer instances of the disarming crux that was so welcoming in the first book, though, and perhaps too many semblances of mundanity - one hopes that further on in the series there are reasons for the fireside stories told here, as witty and enjoyably diverting as they may be.
A further point I found ever so slightly disappointing is that Miles is showing signs by the end of the book of becoming too powerful, as his legacy truly manifests itself. I am sure the threat to Miles and the danger he has to defeat will only increase, but will it do so while keeping Miles such a welcoming innocent in a world of wonder?
But that's only a minor quibble - and how, you may ask, can I quibble about Miles developing into a slightly magical being when a minor character is a blind adventurer who has named his walking stick, appreciates hurdy-gurdies for their smell and keeps crocodiles in his back garden? It is the unquestioning way the story can continue to be as inventive as that, while never sounding in the slightest silly, that ensures the mature reader can still get as much out of the book as Miles's fellow eleven-year olds.
There remains nothing unwelcoming in the book - the one toilet humour joke made me guffaw, for example. All the old favourites return - the Bengal tiger that sometimes crops up to talk to or save Miles; Little - the four hundred year old girl that is an example of the good kind of fallen angel; the circus staff; the wicked orphanage-runners Miles had to best in the first book; and on beyond them to the frankly inept police force of whatever kind of world the books are actually set in.
The novelty continues, although perhaps at a less sustained extent than in the first book. That said, the publishers have a great success on their hands. (Thankfully they or someone have changed the synopsis on Amazon from that which was published a few months ago, which gave far too much away drattit.) I have no idea in which direction the series is going to go, although there are many suggestions of it going seaward, nor how many further books we should expect (I guess two at the least). But even though I was very aware of this book not scaling the heights of the first I was still very grateful to have had such a good book to lap up. Future benefactors be aware, I, enjoyably-entertained and series-smitten, want a copy of every one.
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