What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire

As regular readers of this blog know (all three of you) I enjoy creative young adult fiction – particularly with a speculative perspective or dealing with myths or legends.  So when I saw What-theDickens on the discount table at Half-Price Books I added it to the shopping cart (my kids like to ride in them – or climb in an out of them anyways).

Here is the publisher’s blurb:

A terrible storm is raging, and ten-year-old Dinah is huddled by candlelight with her brother, sister, and cousin Gage, who is telling a very unusual tale. It’s the story of What-the-Dickens, a newly hatched orphan creature who finds he has an attraction to teeth, a crush on a cat named McCavity, and a penchant for getting into trouble. One day he happens upon a feisty girl skibberee who is working as an Agent of Change — trading coins for teeth — and learns that there is a dutiful tribe of skibbereen (call them tooth fairies) to which he hopes to belong. As his tale of discovery unfolds, however, both What-the- Dickens and Dinah come to see that the world is both richer and less sure than they ever imagined.

As noted above, the book contains a story within a story. The reader “hears” the story from Gage as he tells it to his cousins. The backdrop to this is the storm which has cut them off from their parents and civilization at large.  The stories eventually come together in the person of Gage.

The story that focuses on What-the-Dickens is clever and imaginative; an entertaining take on tooth fairies.  The other story leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination and, while it seems to want to say something about loneliness, loss and the power of stories, it didn’t quite mesh with the central story of the Skibberee – at least for me.

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The Necromancer by Michael Scott

Not sure why, but a bunch of authors I enjoy had book come out at the end of  May and, particularly given my constrained reading and reviewing time these days, this meant a  stacked up TBR pile. Choices, choices, isn’t that what is all about most days?

I had The Necromancer (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel), however, shipped to my Kindle as soon as it was released and read it shortly thereafter. This was exactly the type of reading I could enjoy as a reward for long hours worked.

I enjoyed the previous books in the series – my wife and I raced through them and were anxiously awaiting this latest volume in a planed six book series.  For those of you not in the loop – for shame! – here is the Amzon review:

The Necromancer, book four in Michael Scott’s “Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series, brings the immortal Flamel (The Alchemyst) and teenaged twins, Sophie and Josh, back home to San Francisco, where they meet up with the sorceress Perenelle, Flamel’s wife, who spent the last book escaping from Alcatraz. Time is running out for the Flamels; it’s now been six days since their foe Dr. John Dee (another immortal) ran off with the Codex, the book of Abraham the Mage that keeps them young, and they are aging fast. The twins, who have been learning the Elemental Magics over the course of the first three books, are worried about getting into trouble for basically disappearing for days, so they check in with their guardian, Aunt Agnes. But Scott doesn’t let them settle in for long. True to the break-neck pace of this series, they are quickly pulled back into the action when Sophie is kidnapped by a redheaded vampire who bears an eerie resemblance to one of their recent allies, Scathach, who disappeared with Joan of Arc in the last book. The Necromancer introduces readers to even more infamous immortals, while keeping up with favorites from past books–Machiavelli, Shakespeare, Billy the Kid. As the characters accumulate, so do the opportunities for hair-raising conflicts and insane reveals. Scott manages their multiple story lines with a sequence of cliffhangers that keep it a really fun read even as he is piling on the history and mythology, taking readers further into the secrets that will bring the whole story together. As the characters hurtle toward a conflict that could bring about the end of the world, we can’t wait to see where they’ll go, what they’ll learn, and who they’ll meet next.

This, at least to me, is not a stand alone book by any stretch of the imagination.  Instead it is a volume that begins to unwind and explain a complicated plot as the series comes to a close. As time seems to be running short on the Flamels the pace seemed to slow down and the mythological background comes more into focus. There is a major plot twist/revelation that I assume holds a clue to the ultimate resolution. Hard to believe there are two more books before the end.

The tension between Josh and the Flamels – and his sister – is ratcheted up and the good guys and bad guys – if you can figure out which is which – are converging and building to a climax (again, if you call it that with two books left).

This is an enjoyable fantasy thriller series but one of those where you race to read the book only to be forced to wait for the next release to dive back in again. But it is well worth the wait.