Last year, I reviewed the fabulously original and enchanting novel, The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric. (You can read that review here.) It tells the tale of Teo and Renzo, the mythical Undrowned Child and Studious Son of Venetian lore, who must save the ill-fated city of Venice from the evil master of ghosts and horrible monsters, Il Traditore.
As I mentioned (here) when I shared the tantalising video trailer with you, the sequel is now available. Called The Mourning Emporium, it follows the latest adventures of Teo and Renzo, battling once again against the forces of evil. The action (and there's lots of it !) takes place in three equally dangerous locations : firstly Venice, where the evil minions of Il Traditore have returned, freezing the city and causing a flood which has wreaked death and destruction on a massive scale ; then The Scilla, a floating sailor school for some of the city's many orphans, where Renzo and Teo end up ; and finally London, Il Traditore's latest target, a city in mourning as the reigning monarch Queen Victoria takes her final breaths.
As in the first novel, we find the same mix of historical fact and delicious fantasy and I can only imagine how many hours of research Michelle must have put into writing this book. It's a book aimed at children, peopled with magical mermaids, gigantic killer squid, talking animals and ghostly pirates, but a section at the end of the novel also tells you what was real and what wasn't in the novel and we learn that a surprising number of elements are actually based on historical fact. If only history lessons at school could be so interesting - it would be great for teachers to have poetic license and be allowed to throw a few warrior mermaids in for good measure to liven up the lessons a bit !
Once again, Michelle adds a few life lessons in to the mix, looking at friendship, bravery, loyalty and sacrifice, but also jealousy, mistrust and prejudice (both amongst the children and their mermaid friends). The London street children, who remind me slightly of Fagin's boys in Oliver Twist, show the sad reality of life for many children at the turn of the last century and will strike a chord with young readers.
However, Michelle is also well established as a writer of adult novels and the style of The Mourning Emporium is a blend of fairytalesque adventure that will appeal to kids and a rather challenging literary style, with detailed descriptions and sometimes complicated old-fashioned dialects. I think it's slightly ambitious for young readers, but as a book to share with your child, it makes absolutely perfect bedtime reading, as both parent and child will enjoy following the story (not to mention reading the mermaid dialogues in a Cockney pirate voice !).
I know you can't judge a book by its cover but the publishers have done a great job again and produced a beautiful book that looks and feels lovely before you even read the first word on the page. If you haven't read The Undrowned Child, you can still read and enjoy The Mourning Emporium as it is a separate adventure and there are numerous flashbacks to fill you in on things you need to know from the first book. I highly recommend reading the first book though, as it's such a pleasure to read.
I'm hopeful there will be a third episode and I can't wait to see what new adventures will befall Teo and Renzo or where they'll end up next time. I hope they find their close bond again though, as the special chemistry between the two friends seemed sadly lacking this time. I also can't wait to see which new characters Michelle will come up with - we've had a talking bulldog, a deliciously sarcastic, winged, talking cat and curry-munching mermaids, so the mind boggles ! With Michelle Lovric, anything is possible !
star rating : 4.5/5
RRP : £9.99
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Orion Childrens (28 Oct 2010)
Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13.8 x 3.8 cm
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