Neversuch House: Mask of the Evergones by Elliott Skell

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Neversuch House: Mask of the Evergones by Elliott Skell

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: Neversuch House is self-contained, protected from the ordinary world of drudgery and weariness outside by an immense wall. It has been like this for years, but now, suddenly, the House and its inhabitants are threatened. Most of the adults are too self-obsessed to even notice the danger, and it is up to Omnia and her friends to defend their home against the mysterious and murderous attackers in the panther masks.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: August 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1847387448

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The Halibuts are an extraordinary family. Almost two centuries ago the Captain used his immense wealth to buy up land and surround it by a high wall. He took a wife, and employed families of servants to serve his every need. Money was no object, and subsequent generations of Halibuts had anything they desired on one condition: if they ever left the grounds of the House, they could never return.

Over time, simple routines and habits have become immutable law, because the family and the majority of the servants never meet anyone who did things differently. And because the Halibuts have nothing to do, they develop the habit of throwing themselves obsessively into a single pursuit or hobby, however trivial, to the exclusion of all else. Deliria Halibut, for example, spends her life studying the moulds on the north face of the Great Tower, and Everfine plots the shadows of the architecture of the House. Indeed, we actually see this process happening during the course of the book: our young heroine, Omnia, watches in dismay as her beloved older brother neglects her, indeed almost forgets her existence in his desire to create the best hair wax ever made.

But not everyone is happy about this state of affairs. In the previous volume Omnia, then aged twelve and a quarter, had to battle the murderous Tobias Hildegrew, and first heard about the mysterious Evergones. Now, more than two months later, someone is stirring up trouble in the servant quarters, unsettling routines and encouraging people to revolt. Two of the UnderButlers die in circumstances which only a Halibut, with their child-like and childish minds, could believe to be mere freakish accidents. And yet again Omnia finds her own life in danger, for reasons she cannot understand.

The reader might be forgiven for thinking it would serve the selfish and greedy Halibuts right if they had to fend for themselves for a change, and that the servants would all be glad to escape such demanding employers, but life at Neversuch House is far more complex than that. Omnia is astonished to discover that the majority of servants like things the way they are: far from resenting the Halibuts, they actually pity them. As one servant tells Omnia: Neversuch House is their home too: they control how their work is done to a large extent, and they have settled lives. Life outside the walls might seem tempting, but few servants would find there the comfort and security guaranteed by the House.

'The Mask of the Evergones' is a book filled with both humour and excitement. The reader moves swiftly from heart-stopping pursuits and escapes, confrontations and battles, to glorious scenes of near-slapstick humour, particularly when we see the Halibuts at table or at play. Over the whole House hangs an atmosphere of menace and fear, the shadow of old grudges and resentments, and yet the delightful inhabitants, master and servant alike, continue their busy lives of bizarre and pointless activity utterly unaware of impending doom. Only Omnia suspects some small part of what is happening, and the reader is continually on tenterhooks, wondering how on earth she will evade a grisly death, and, indeed, whom among those who profess themselves her friends she can actually trust. Reading this book is like stepping into another world, a place of adventure and comedy and eccentricity, and it will remain in your mind long after the book has been returned to the shelf.

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending us this absorbing story.

Further reading suggestion: While it is quite possible to enjoy this book without reading the first volume, Neversuch House, you will learn a great deal of amusing background detail about the House and its inhabitants by tackling the books in order. Another example of excellent world-building, though of a less extreme nature, will be found in City of Thieves by Ellen Renner.

Buy Neversuch House: Mask of the Evergones by Elliott Skell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Neversuch House: Mask of the Evergones by Elliott Skell at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Neversuch House: Mask of the Evergones by Elliott Skell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Neversuch House: Mask of the Evergones by Elliott Skell at Amazon.com.


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