Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Luck Uglies (The Luck Uglies #1) by Paul Durham

This debut fantasy adventure has a strong heroine and plot that trots along before finding it's stride. The fantastical setting came across as a mix of British and Medieval times. The town is under the protection of an evil Earl with a corrupt Constable. A stone wall surrounds Village Drowning like a feudal city. Luck Uglies used to guard the village until the Earl banished them. Bog Noblins live in the nearby swamp and when they start to attack the townspeople, the Earl struggles with their size and power. He refuses to call for the Luck Uglies help making Rye dig into the past to find the history of the rift. She discovers not only the town's history, but her family's as well. While the start is somewhat choppy, it comes together at the end with some interesting plot twists and action galore.

The first line has a good hook with Rye, the protagonist, commenting that she and her two friends never intended to steal a banned book. The three are running from rooftop to rooftop with the book owner chasing them, when Rye sees a gargoyle move and stumbles off the edge of the roof. Clothesline break her fall and she ends up at the feet of Mrs. O'Chanter telling her to pull her dress down and stop showing the neighbor's her business. Mrs. O'Chanter is Rye's mother but her lack of concern and internal dialogue of where Rye calls her "Mrs. O'Chanter" versus "mother" made me think that Rye was an orphan. Then when Rye describes how different her sister Lottie looks from her and Mrs. O'Chanter, I wondered if both were orphans taken in by Mrs. O'Chanter. It becomes clear later on but I was confused by Rye's internal chatter.

The next chapter jumps to Rye cleaning up and going to her mother's shop. I thought Rye's friends would have followed up to see if she survived her fall or if the man chasing them would demand his book back. I also wondered why Rye never told her friends about the moving gargoyle. Her character is painted as one that doesn't keep secrets from her friends. Once the action in the chapters flowed into each other as the story progressed, I got less turned around and had less going back to reread sections seeing if I missed something. The leap in some scenes sometimes left me feeling like I was falling off a rooftop. I lost my vertigo when the cat escaped and the Bog Noblin showed up in the plot.

The author does a good job using humor to lighten the dark spots. When the Constable is demanding money Rye tries to tell him her name. He mispronounces it and she tells him ironically that it rhymes with "lie." When her mother frowns at her she picks a worse rhyming word, "die." When she meets the man with tattoos and battle scars all over his body she calls him, "Harmless." The House Rules that Rye goes by are rhyming couplets and she intentionally breaks them over the course of the novel. This reinforces her emotional arc of learning to think for herself. She also wears her father's boots that are too big for her making her trip at inopportune times. They show her trying to walk in his footsteps and become independent while making the reader laugh at the same time.

Rye gets annoyed with her mom for not telling her the truth. Later her mom explains that her lies were meant to protect Rye. Sometimes adults can't tell children facts because they know they are too young to keep quiet. Rye understands this and shows how she is growing more mature as the novel progresses and she overcomes evil. The Bog Noblin is prejudiced by others in the community and Rye wonders about the justice of him being imprisoned. She is questioning authority and decisions; something she does repeated throughout the story. She is not a blind follower and tries to sort through oppressiveness whether it is with individuals or regimes. The layered themes make this story interesting and the action is nonstop in the middle and end. I will definitely be purchasing book 2 for the library.

3 Smileys

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