The Catchers in Pirates, Thieves, Zombies and Magic by Stuart J Kent

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The Catchers in Pirates, Thieves, Zombies and Magic by Stuart J Kent

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 2/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Only for those who need a lot more bickering in their fantasy reads – and I mean a LOT, whether about food or something else.
Buy? No Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 288 Date: March 2018
Publisher: Matador
ISBN: 9781788038683

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Meet the Catchers – a mix of young and old, magical and human, smart and, er, less smart. It's their job to round up Fabulous Beasts, and right from the get-go they have a job on their hands in this, the second book to contain their adventures. Colin, the older and magical (if not completely smart) one, is tasked with a recovery mission by a friend who boasted about having a wonderful lion griffin, only for it to vanish. Well, wouldn't you, if you were a lion griffin called Muffin? Either way, we know the adventure is going to include more than that simple task implies, as the extended title of the book suggests, but is it any good? Is it rock bottom on the pile of juvenile fantasy reads, or does the combination of Pirates, Thieves, Zombies (both tame and wild) and Magic make this particular Muffin top?

Unfortunately, in a bloated market, it is nowhere near the heights it seeks. I didn't mind the early introduction of a fart gag, I appreciated the dig at Stoke, I ignored the fact Planet of the Apes was misquoted, I had no issue with the narrator constantly breaking the fourth wall – but there certainly were two major problems as regards style. One is – and I know it sounds like I'm being hypocritical, judging from my style at times – the sentences are far too long. Within the first couple of pages I had picked up that the author would happily thrust too many clauses into sentences for their own good. Take this on for size, one that is not the longest, but here's an example:-

Inside the large square room, they all stood for a moment in stunned, silent amazement, as they stared at the big, happy pictures of Muffin and Albert that were hung all over the walls, then at the furry pink carpet on the floor, and the half-torn giant teddy bear that was Muffin's favourite chew toy, which was by his large pink pillow-filled basket where he slept, in the far corner of the room and right in front of a small window.

Yes, this sentence is just one action – it's a single look – but what it includes is far too convoluted, unnecessarily detailed, and could have been conveyed much more readably. It wouldn't patronise a young audience to make sure that every sentence could be read aloud in one breath – they would struggle on multiple occasions here, so often do we get told needless colour details and other descriptives.

Secondly, the differing characters all bicker, mostly about food and pretty much wholly in an unfunny way, and I struggled to keep in mind which was which saying what. Never mind the rhyming names of the other three Catchers – Marty, Jamie and Trixie – their speech was not differentiated at all. As a result what is intended as food-based banter really rankled. And there's a lot of it – if you don't like bickering as comedy, look away now.

The actual contents of the book – all over the shop, but in a decent way – are in fact perfectly serviceable, and with or without the clause-heavy description you can easily see a slapstick, Saturday-morning cartoon going on. But by trying to describe a cartoon, and include so many punning bits of dialogue, you need to be really on the ball with your comedic skills, and I don't think this author is here. If things were toned down enough so you could like the characters, and the style was more pleasant to the reader, this could be a hit series. For now, though, I'm sorry but I really don't fancy pudding.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

The same house can provide good young readers' fantasy - The Seer's Curse by J J Faulks is proof.

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Buy The Catchers in Pirates, Thieves, Zombies and Magic by Stuart J Kent at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Catchers in Pirates, Thieves, Zombies and Magic by Stuart J Kent at Amazon.com.

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