On a winter’s day in a British town, twelve-year-old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. “This one is special,” says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.
Right as things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, pulling him away from an attack–and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework–and into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unravelling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.
Monstrous Devices is a fantastic adventure story and lets face it, what’s better than an an eccentric family member whisking you off for a magical and dangerously exciting escapade? Many thanks to Rock the Boat News for sending us a copy of this book for review, the finished copy is amazing with a fabulous hidden design under the dust jacket which we just loved!
I adored Alex as a character, he has so many great attributes, determined, brave, resourceful, inquisitive and also very kind. He has a tough time of things which means that he is more cautious and more likely to question, this makes him the perfect balance to his Grandfather who is a whirlwind of bad habits with an act first and think later attitude. The author is also fantastic at painting a picture, I loved the way that the cities of Paris and Prague were brought to life alongside of the well thought out rooftop fights, alleyway scuffles and death defying car chases. There is a heavy dose of the paranormal too, (never go anywhere without your salt!) which helped bring the darker side of these cities alive and keeping the reader guessing about whether a character was friend or foe, or even in fact real. This did sit alongside of a slightly curve ball religious twist, which felt a little clumsy given that the rest of the story was so far removed from that. Thinking about it, I really did get a sense of Indiana Jones on an adventure with his Father for a lot of the story which really helped to endear it to me.
It is a book though that is often chilling, which I found quite shocking given the fact it is a MG book, I know that some kids like to be scared but the imagery is is vibrant with not only the movement of the robots, but also what lies behind their ability to move. There are also TW for bullying in the opening chapters to be aware of and Alex finds himself in some incredibly emotionally charged and lonely situations.
Monsterous Devices though is the ultimate adventure road trip through Europe, where the characters are fighting for their lives before breakfast and are never too far from a cup of coffee. There is lots of excitement balanced with a main character who in fact, acts their age when it comes to emotions and reactions which really helps to make this a fun story.
Biba’s Review: So usually I request MG on the basis that I will read and review with Biba, as her age appropriate review tempers my grown up one. This book has a starting age of 9, which she is, but honestly this was too frightening for her and she didn’t make it past Chapter 4. The imagery was too strong for a bedtime story but she does want to come back to it when she’s a bit older as she very much liked the ideas. I think for parents considering this, if you have a particularly sensitive 9 year old this might be a bit too much for them, I would pitch this as the sort of read that a year 7 would devour!
Rating this is tough, because I don’t have Biba to guide me so I’m basing this on her reactions and my thoughts, although I may revisit this rating when she feels old enough to read it without being scared.