January 18, 2012

The Foundling

This is part of the TBR Double Dare.  It's been on my shelf for a while but when I got a job in an elementary school library, I've kind of let my YA reading go.  I'm using this challenge, or dare, to make sure I hit some of the YA novels sitting around the house.

This book has a new cover but this is the one I read.  It's part one of a trilogy called Monster Blood Tattoo.  I'll give you fair warning that it's a fantasy book with maps and an appendix.  You'll know right away if that's your thing or not.

Back when my book club did Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, another member and I bonded over Lev Grossman's The Magicians and in the discussion he mentioned The Foundling.  So I had to move it up on my TBR stack right away!

It takes place in an alternate steampunkish, Dickensian reality in which people wear tricorn hats, most commerce is by boat and monsters lurk in the shadows.  The orphans of Madam Opera's Estimable for Foundling Boys and Girls are raised to become future naval fodder.  Our protagonist is a boy saddled with a girls name, Rossamund, because it was written on a note pinned to him when he was found as an infant.  He dreams of becoming a naval soldier or monster slayer, but is chosen to become a lamplighter instead.  On his journey to report for his new position, he takes a perilous journey meeting not only monsters, but humans as well, some of which can be more treacherous than the monsters.  Not all is dark and dangerous, though.  There are good people as well, and fascinating sites at every turn.  It's the first in a series and it's a satisfying one at that.

Cornish is an Australian artist and the book is filled with his own brilliant illustrations and maps.  You can see more of his work at his own website here: http://www.dmcornish.com/

I loved this tale.  It's got that perfect balance of the new and the familiar and it's all handled by a storyteller who knows his business.  I admit to not going through all the appendices but in the main narrative he does a great job of giving you just enough background on each new character or element without getting bogged down in tiresome detail. But the appendices are there if you crave more detail! There are wonderful themes of the meaning of courage, the mistakes that can be made by us all regarding misjudging other's intentions or abilities based on gender, age, race and, in this case, species.

I know I'll enjoy reading the other two.  Someday.  After I catch up on my current TBR pile!