Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Synopsis: When Grubb, an orphan and runaway chimney sweep, entered the wondrous world of the Odditorium, his life changed forever. Apprenticed to the mechanical marvel’s strange proprietor, Alistair Grim, Grubb unfortunately must settle into his new position on the Lam, as the whole of London is convinced that Alistair Grim is a villain bent on mass destruction. Grim however, has come up with a plan to expose the real villain: Prince Nightshade, a wicked necromancer who wants the Odditorium’s power source for himself.
With the evil prince hot on their trail, Grim, Grubb and the rest of the Odditorium’s crew embark on a perilous adventure to find the legendary sword Excalibur: the only weapon capable of penetrating Nightshade’s magical suit of armor. As expected, their quest turns out to be anything but ordinary. Not only can the Odditorium fly, but it can also swim! And so the crew battens down the hatches and sets off on an underwater voyage to the underworldly realm of Avalon, home to Excalibur. Along the way, they must battle a banshee assassin, sea monsters, and a witch who seeks revenge on Alistair Grim for stealing her magical objects.
But that’s not all. Unbeknownst to Grubb and the others, their fate has been written in an ancient Avalonian prophecy–a prophecy that holds the key to a destiny not even Alistair Grim could have possibly imagined.
“It’s the magic in his books what keeps the library warm.”
~ Grubb, “Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum”
While this quote doesn’t appear until near the end of this book, it’s a perfect example of why you should read it! Alistair Grim’s Odditorium first introduced the young orphan Grubb (“like the worm, with one b”) and his adventures on board the incredible Odditorium with the enigmatic inventor Mr. Alistair Grim. This second book picks up approximately a month later, and is even more magical than the first!
The heart of these books continues to be young Grubb who is approximately twelve-years-old. He is an enchanting character whose continually optimistic outlook on life is amazing, given his Dickensian background. He faces every danger he’s exposed to with an almost cheerful acceptance and never backs down from a challenge. The story is told from Grubb’s point-of-view, and his charming cockney narrative makes the reader care even more about him and his companions.
Grubb’s relationship with Alistair Grim is further developed and there are some truly touching moments between them. The author answers a few more questions regarding the intriguing inventor while posing new ones which will hopefully be answered in the next book.
The way in which Gregory Funaro writes his secondary characters makes them just as much fun as the main ones. Tragic Nigel, Mrs. Pinch (a witch who makes delicious purple stew), McClintock the watch, Lord Dreary, Gwendolyn the fairy, Cleona the banshee–they all return for this exciting adventure. They’re joined by new friends and foes including Lorchlan Dalach, a banshee with ties to Cleona.
As the synopsis states, this latest attempt to put an end to Prince Nightshade’s villainy involves finding Avalon and Excalibur. As soon as I read this I became even more excited because I’ve always been fascinated with Arthurian mythology. Much to my delight, the author puts an imaginative and unique spin on the mythology which kept me absolutely captivated. While on their quest our intrepid heroes come across more prophecies which foreshadow possible events in subsequent books.
With this second book in the Odditorium series, Gregory Funaro has crafted a magical adventure which successfully blends fantasy and steampunk into a perfect mix. It’s a world filled with such incredible detail that you’ll have a difficult time pulling yourself away. Because of this being an ARC, not all the illustrations were provided, but the ones that were added to the charm of the story. While this is written for upper elementary and middle school students, it will also enchant adult readers who haven’t let go of their inner child.