Lunatics and Luck (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick

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Lunatics and Luck (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A quirky yet sensible slice of odd fun in a castle cursed with quackiness. Lovely pictures, and a great writer, combine to show up a very worthwhile series.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
ISBN: 978-1842556955

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It's obvious really. When an earthquake hits Castle Otherhand, Valevine, the head of the household, decides what the place needs is a machine to predict the future, and a new tutor for his two oldest children. And why not? There are only those children, the suicidal baby twins, Valevine's dreadful failed inventions and experiments, Edgar the raven that narrates this series of books, and a monkey. With bells on. Clearly there is not enough weirdness there already to go around.

Edgar to my mind provides the nearest thing to a hiccup in this book when he foretells oddity and the unusual so often through the first half. With his singular character, of an ageing, wise (wise, that is, for a raven) and inquisitive bird, being of such high quality, we can see all the wackiness for ourselves.

Of course there is no way we can see the ending of everything until the last pages, as Marcus Sedgwick has the chance to throw all types of nonsense at us - and does. But most importantrly he does so with the craft to judge everything finely, and to rein in the absurdity.

So we end up with a very entertaining romp round the castle, with a very coherent and finely told story. It's very basic level reading - I for one noticed how so often people are referred to by their names, instead of he" or she, even when it would have been most obvious. But coming through that simplicity is a great hand at character - the goth girl and her love of the music of the band 'I Was Born Wrong', the slightly dopey, comfort-eating, monkey-owning brother, the fiery cameos from their mother, the downtrodden butler.

You will expect me to state the obvious here - the goth girl is nothing new. The arrival of the tutor is Lemony Snicket with added squishy death. But it's Edgar we have to thank for bringing this tale to our attention, and its his unique narration and the fact that he, unlike me, is never stating the obvious - yet, to repeat, in a measured, reasonable (if repetitive) way - that make this book a lot more distinguished than it might appear in summary.

Of final note is the lovely way the odd history of the Otherhands is casually dropped in by Sedgwick's characters - Is this like that time with the walrus? asks one.

The pictures and lovely production values are another clue to the appeal within these covers, and on the whole this bears the mark of distinction I expected when I saw this author had started a series for a younger audience. I am a bit of a fan of his, and with six of these books to eventually choose from (this is number three) - if anything like this quality - they will set him up with a fanbase to last well into the future.

I must thank the kind people at Orion Children's Books for my review copy.

We at the Bookbag first got acquainted with this series with the second, Ghosts and Gadgets (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick.

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Buy Lunatics and Luck (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lunatics and Luck (Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick at


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