Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty
|Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty
|Category: Confident Readers
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
|Summary: Evil forces are about to launch an attack on the Blighted Village of Darkmouth, where Finn's dad is training him as a Legend Hunter. Unfortunately, Finn's really not very good. In fact, he's absolutely rubbish.
|Date: January 2015
|Publisher: Harper Collins
Shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2016: Younger Fiction
It's not much fun having a Destiny, and a line of ancestors leading back into the mists of history to live up to. It's a lot less fun when you're a bit of a loser, and the Darkmouth villagers you're supposed to protect are so fed up with your mistakes they phone the local bobby to complain every time you go out hunting. Just because you squashed someone's car a teeny bit, and sliced a boat in two – I mean, you've got to learn, right?
As long as people can remember Legends (that is to say, slimy, vicious, murderous monsters) have been crossing over to this dimension. You can't really blame them: their own world is stinky and dark and barren, and there are no juicy humans to eat there. But over time most of the monsters come to realise that the Hunters are just too good, and if they want to survive they'd better stay where they are and just eat each other. With the disappearance of the Legends, the Hunter traditions fade, until eventually there is only one place left in the world where a rippling gateway occasionally opens from the Infested Side. A small village in Ireland called Darkmouth.
Here, Finn is subjected by his father to a rigorous daily routine of exercises and tests which are as tedious as they are painful, and they leave Finn no time whatsoever for hobbies or relaxation or friends. Not that anyone wants to be his friend anyway: they'd much rather beat him up. And then a new girl joins his class, someone who thinks he's really cool and brave, and life gets altogether better – until his dad breaks the news that he's getting a promotion that will take him away from Darkmouth for weeks on end, so defending the village will be totally up to Finn.
Finn's father is a dedicated and stubborn man who is frustrated by his son's inability to learn. It is, after all, a matter of life and death for the boy. But beneath his concern for his son lies a darker purpose: the mysterious disgrace of Finn's grandfather, and the disappointment and shame this brought on the family. No way is there going to be a repeat of that, not if Finn's dad can help it, and every time his son fails the hours of practice increase. Finn's mother, on the other hand, does not come from a Hunter family, and her warmth and cheeriness bring a welcome lightness to the book – after all, it's not often being a dentist is portrayed as the fun family career.
What results from all this is a story which balances moments of peril with side-splitting farce, where no one is exactly who they seem and allies can come from the most unexpected of places. Being the first in a series means there are quite a few matters left unresolved at the end, but it's sufficiently funny, scary and witty for that not to be too much of a problem.
Another really good series for confident readers about those pesky monsters who refuse to stay under the bed is The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham: fun, mystery, secrets and danger abound.
You can read more book reviews or buy Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty at Amazon.com.
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