The Train Set of Terror: A Measle Stubbs Adventure by Ian Ogilvy and Chris Mould
|The Train Set of Terror: A Measle Stubbs Adventure by Ian Ogilvy and Chris Mould|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A good start to an enjoyable series of oddball fantasy adventures - republished under new names.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 208||Date: May 2010|
|Publisher: OUP Oxford|
You will feel sympathy for Measle from the very start of this book. Not only is he an orphan, and stuck friendless in a horridly dingy house on the wrong side of the train tracks, but he shares his life with its main torment - his guardian, Basil Tramplebone. Basil makes no effort to improve Measle or his lot - he does not educate him, keeps Measle and his inheritance a great distance apart, and feeds him slop. Measle would even like to have a bath now and again - but not in the putrid brown and green gunk coming from the taps. The only thing that redeems Basil at all is that he owns the world's best train set, one Measle would love to get to know a lot better. Unfortunately for Measle, he's about to get that wish granted...
For we all - Measle and the reader - start this book in ignorance of what a wrathmonk is. It turns out they are warlocks gone bad, and Basil is one. Hence his ability to shrink Measle, and use him as a character in the table-top world of his train set and attendant village – a world with some unexpected dangers.
This is a very enjoyable book from the actor Ian Ogilvy, which came out originally in 2004 with the name Measle and the Wrathmonk. The publishers have brightened the monotone covers, given all five alliterative titles, and given them to us again, and at a budget price the earlier rubber book jackets did not allow for. This is a good thing, for what I know of the series (namely, the fourth and the fifth books) is that it is fully competent, full of a decent standard of invention, and provides for engaging, danger-free reading for something like the 9-12 year old audience.
This volume is not the best in the series, however. It does at times feel like a debut book – although Ogilvy has had other works published before this. The plot is a little on the thin side – both the cover blurb and myself go further than I'd like through the book in giving their summaries – and there are other things that could have been slightly better. Without giving too much away, Measle is not completely alone in trying to get off the train set, and the diversity of characters he meets could have been foregrounded a little more. Some might quibble at the logic of the magic the wrathmonk uses.
It is noticeable too that this is the shortest book in the series, as far as I know by some many pages. That however allows for a tauter introduction to things, and I've accused some of the writing later on of being a little florid. If the plot is a little thin at times, the brisker adventure for Measle allows for a snappier read. And having said that about the plot, it is noticeable how much worse this book, which boils down to 'shrunken boy in peril', could have been.
I won't mention my quibble of the power tools having an endless supply of power, for sounding too negative – for I like this series. I don't think it ever became brilliant, but it definitely is enjoyable. There is an easy invention in just quietly providing the odd – Basil is not some heinous monster, rather a recognisable bad man. The nasties Measle meets are just a sensible remove from reality. And Measle is a common-or-garden young hero – even if he does actually want a bath.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
For a darker mystery in a very different house, we recommend The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon heartily – unless, that is, you scare easily.
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