Charlie's Monsters (Nightmare Academy) by Dean Lorey
|Charlie's Monsters (Nightmare Academy) by Dean Lorey|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Rip-roaring, high-octane, plot-driven fantasy with some enjoyable but easy to follow worldbuilding. The visual elements are perhaps stronger than the fantasy side which is a little simplistic. The emotional landscape is rather uncomplicated, making this a fun read for thrill seekers of late primary age.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: March 2008|
|Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books|
Your parents lied. There ARE monsters under bed. Things DO go bump in the night.
You see? You always knew it, didn't you? What you probably didn't know was that the power of a child's nightmare is what allows the ghosts, ghoulies and monsters in. A child's imagination is so strong that when stirred into fear during a nightmare, it can open a portal into the Nether - and a door through which step all sorts of beastly baddies. Charlie and his parents, though, don't know about portals and the Nether. And so the havoc Charlie wreaks every time he goes to sleep is a mystery to them. For Charlie is a particularly imaginative child. His dreams attract Class 5 Nether creatures, and anyone with the imaginative power to attract Class 5s comes to the attention of the Nightmare Academy...
... and that, obviously, is where the real fun begins.
Ha. Yes. It really is fun. Charlie's Monsters is a crash, bang, wallop of a book. It hits the ground running and doesn't let up the pace for a moment. If you're looking for a real rollercoaster adventure of a ride for young readers, then you're in the right place. According to my release notes, Kirkus Review called the Nightmare Academy Men in Black for kids; they are spot on. There's some simple but absorbing world building, the narrative dispenses with anything much in the way of frippery in favour of moving swiftly on to the next action set piece, and everything is very visual.
It all taps into the familar fears of night-time, the dark, and bad dreams, but it does it with good heart and good humour. There's a great deal of fighting and a fair dollop of gore, but by facing and laughing at bogeymen recognisable to all children, it dilutes fear. There's nothing scary about Charlie's Monsters - the whole thing is pure exhilaration from start to finish.
Great writing it isn't. The parts dealing with more threatening emotional issues - Charlie's loneliness, for example - are treated with more than a little cliche. You can find a more touching, more sophisticated treatment of vulnerability in Derek Landy's very similar kind of book Skulduggery Pleasant for instance. Some of the supporting cast are horribly one-dimensional. However, this first in the series does set us up for some character development for Charlie and his two monster-bashing friends, so I shall look forward to that.
Charlie's Monsters isn't trying to be great children's literature though. It's trying to be a semi-comic fantasy adventure for readers of late primary age. And at that, it succeeds tremendously well. It's highly recommended for all junior fans of the genre.
My thanks to the nice people at Harper Collins for sending the book.
If they liked Charlie's Monsters, they'll adore Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant, which has a similar premise but a slightly more sophisticated emotional landscape and a tongue even more firmly in its cheek.
You can read more book reviews or buy Charlie's Monsters (Nightmare Academy) by Dean Lorey at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Charlie's Monsters (Nightmare Academy) by Dean Lorey at Amazon.com.
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