The Mapmaker's Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre! by Rob Stevens
|The Mapmaker's Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre! by Rob Stevens|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A very strong fantasy quest narrative engages our hero Hugo and some very odd animal characters in this distinctive and fun romp for the under-13s. Don't make the easy mistake of thinking this just some formulaic franchise entry.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: January 2009|
|Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books|
It is the Age of Discovery, and the only thing stopping new islands, lands and worlds being discovered left, right and centre is the fact that the centre has been pretty much all explored. England is host to a brattish and naïve young boy called Rupert, who is rich and spoilt enough for him to be gifted his own vessel to encounter strange peoples, much as the returning adventurer Columbus has just done.
However our hero is Hugo, who, despite having lost both parents at least indirectly to the itchy feet explorers have, is intent on joining a mission to a world of strange new delights. He dips into his guardian uncle's brilliance at mapmaking and cartography, and declares himself right for Rupert's boat's maiden voyage. And then things get odd.
For it is a most unusual land that is discovered. Permanently shrouded in fog, host to completely bizarre animals of both good and bad temperament, it is a land with a history – a lapsed paradise that is dependent on some missing wondrous artefact the inhabitants are seeking that will put it to rights again.
The resulting narrative is a high energy fantasy adventure of very strong order, with a healthy dose of twists, turns, caring bits, moral bits, dodgy-taste punning bits… A goodly gang of strange personalities and species is formed very nicely, and the relevant quest duly engaged upon. All is unfussy, and just all works very well.
The quest concerns some pertinent clues, and while some of these are easy enough, several are hard, but the depth to the world here takes us beyond that as a major consideration, and the overall weft of characters and the events they engage in force me to give the book a high rating and a strong recommendation.
I can't let the book lie there, however, as I see it as something that is being mis-sold. The generic cover makes this appear to be the first in an average, monster-of-the-month series. There is nothing wrong with a franchise such as that, when it works, but this is above such things. The slow build to the story before we get to the crux of events, the sometimes forced humour that makes us acknowledge it with a happy cringe, the underplayed inventiveness (the sentinowl was underused, among many such compound creature inventions), and generally the over-arching distinction given to the plot make this book a stand-out when it only looks to the shelf-browser as formulaic.
In fact, not to give anything of the plot away, when we come to leave this island for some as yet unpublished sequel, it is a shame to think this gang will not be taken forward on similar high quality adventures. For now, those however remain very eagerly awaited.
We at the Bookbag must thank Macmillan for our review copy.
If this book appeals to you then we think that you might also enjoy Monster Makers: Stinkermite by Ali Sparkes.
The Mapmaker's Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre! by Rob Stevens is in the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2009.
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You can read more book reviews or buy The Mapmaker's Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre! by Rob Stevens at Amazon.com.
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