Welcome to my blog. I often think I was born with a book in my hand. I have always enjoyed reading, but more importantly, talking about books. This blog is partially about reviews, but is really a forum to talk about what I'm reading, and express all of the thoughts and feelings that there simply isn't room for in a professional review. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on your favourite books as you follow my reading journey.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Toymaker: A Nightmarish Middle Grade Debut

Mathias, the grandson of a fading Conjurer has never known life outside of the traveling circus to which his grandfather Gustav belongs. When a mysterious stranger with a silver-tipped cane appears in the audience one evening, Gustav is so shocked by his presence that he stumbles and falls off the stage to his death. Gustv had many secrets, and the only key to unlocking them is a piece of paper that was sewn into his jacket. There are many who would do anything to learn what that paper contains, and danger faces Mathias at every turn. Mathias's quest ultimately leads him to a sinister toymaker who is missing just one thing that will keep his toys from winding down- a human heart.

Sometimes at a takeaway display when things get quiet and no customers are in the booth, I find a quiet moment to pick up a book off the table and read. Over the course of the day I sampled a number of titles I hadn't yet seen to get a feel for them, but the trouble was, we were selling out of things so quickly, (which is a good problem really) I ended up having to put them all back. Then I noticed The Toymaker. On a table with so few copies left of most of the titles, my eye was caught by the lonely book that hadn't seemed to sell any copies, and I immediately decided to read it and find out why.

The answer? It has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or whether or not the story is good. It is- but, the book is thick, the cover is a bit young (they really should have kept the British Cover) and it's just one of those books that needs to be hand-sold to adults who will probably be pretty creeped out by it.

That being said, I actually really liked this book. The author does a fantastic job of creating atmosphere, and while there are no indications that the setting is a real place, it perfectly sets the mood. The descriptions of travelling through ice and snow certainly indicate a winter climate, and it's most likely a Germanic country. It's dark and eerie, and you just know it's not your fairy tale land.

The author's vivid use of language really brings these characters to life, and they are deliciously scary. Dr. Leiter is a perfectly evil villain, and his doll Marguerite is a terrific reminder of the sinister aspect of dolls. Marguerite is a lie-detecting automaton. If a person is telling the truth, she points to a blue card. If it's a lie, she points to red. And did I mention she's never wrong? She is just one of the creations of the "Toymaker", who though rarely seen, is at the center of the novel.

The book moves along quickly and takes many twists and turns that will keep readers turning the pages (it is surprisingly difficult to put down) but it's really violent and scary, and not for the faint of heart. There are bones broken, shootings, stabbings, and a grave-robbery to name a few, but fans of books like A Tale Dark and Grimm will likely eat this up. The publisher recommends it for 10 and up, but I'd say ideally, it's for a precocious 10 or fearless 11 or 12-year-old.

As for what's on the mysterious piece of paper that everybody seems to want so much, and the secrets that Gustav was hiding? To find out, you'll just have to read it yourself!