Itchcraft by Simon Mayo

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Itchcraft by Simon Mayo

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: Third book in the Itch sequence about the audacious, intrepid teen obsessed with collecting elements from the Periodic Table to the detriment of his own life. Electrifying, explosive, punchy and action-packed tour de force sizzling with surprising shocks.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: March 2015
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780552569064

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Itch was an exciting debut, bursting with explosive chemistry and high octane action, which deservedly made the Carnegie longlist for 2013 and narrowly lost out to Wonder by R J Palacio for the Northern Ireland Book Award 2013. Radio DJ Mayo followed it up with Itch Rocks which ended with a nail biting climax. Each book is a love letter to Cornwall, embracing its geology and history, but Itchcraft cranks up the tension to the max, sweeping its feisty teen protagonists into a maelstrom of terror. They must use all the scientific knowledge they possess and pit their wits against a psychotic megalomaniac if they are to survive.

In the third part of the sequence our intrepid element hunter is devastated by a tragic incident which is the catalyst to a catalogue of misfortunes.

Itch hopes the nightmare of 126 is over but it is beginning all over again thanks to the nefarious Nathaniel Flowerdew (a villain very much at odds with his name) who is violent, disturbed, obsessive, corrupt and ruthless. He is on the rampage and has vowed vengeance on Itch and his family for depriving him of his prize. Seemingly indestructible, he is an archetypal crossover Bond/Batman villain complete with damaged face, singed hair and self-importance. Accompanying Itch on his terrifying journey are his smart sister Chloe, his plucky cousin Jacqueline (answers to Jack) and Lucy, his resourceful and potential love interest who is sensitive, clever and as mad about chemical elements as he is. Other supporting cast members include an expert team of female divers, who may or may not be on the right side of the law, an enthusiastic energy scientist who works at a mining school, Cake’s bereaved partner, Mr Watson (Itch’s mentor and geography teacher), Itch’s troubled father Nicholas who has been keeping a secret, his angry mother Jude and hapless older brother Gabriel.

Mayo moves the action swiftly through a dazzling kaleidoscope of locations spiralling from romantic Cornwall to a dark road in Nigeria to mineral rich South Africa to Spanish streets boiling over with rage. Spectacular set pieces include a frightening scene inside the Mint and a heart-in-the-mouth riot on a bridge.

Following accidental eyebrow singeing, chemical poisoning, well abseiling, a secret agent protection squad, run ins with ruthless terrorists, oil corruption and death rays, Mayo’s finale needed to be astounding. He does not disappoint, revisiting previous characters, deftly knitting up plot strands from the other novels and throwing in corkscrew twists that come at the reader out of left field.

What does Meyn Mamvro mean? Why are there riots on the streets of Madrid? How is the nefarious Flowerdew involved? What is neodymium? What can silver nitrate do? What is the link between a pig and defibrillation? Whose catchphrase is Let’s whomp this sucker? To find out read Itchcraft. Just don’t try any of the experiments at home!

To appreciate the unique premise of a teen element hunter you should start with the compulsive Itch followed by Itch Rocks which will disclose some of the dangerous secrets of the Periodic Table. If feisty teens in peril being pursued for their knowledge or possessions appeals you should also lose yourself in the wonderful The Emerald Atlas: The Books of Beginning by John Stephens, about a family compelled by a prophecy or the magical and thrilling Arthur Quinn and the World Serpent (The Father of Lies Chronicles) by Alan Early, where an Irish boy takes on Norse God trickster Loki with only his wit and a magical object to protect him.

For more Cornish wonders try Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John or dive with the Mer into the mystical waters of [The Deep, The Crossing of Ingo and The Ingo Chronicles: Stormswept, all by Helen Dunmore, making sure to start with the beautiful fantasies of Ingo and Tide Knot.

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