Saturday, January 11, 2014

Review: The Beast of Upton Puddle by Simon West-Bulford

Title: The Beast of Upton Puddle
Author: Simon West-Bulford
Genre: Middle Grade- Fantasy
Series: N/A 

Paperback, 496 pages
Publication: September 1s, 2013 by Medallion Press 

Source: I received a review copy from the publicist in exchange for a honest review.

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Bringing the mythological world into a modern setting and introducing young adult readers to a variety of strange monsters, this fantasy novel follows 12-year-old Joe Copper on his quest to save humankind. When Joe is hired by the eccentric Mrs. Merrynether as an errand boy at her remarkable veterinary practice—a hidden refuge for a menagerie of creatures that should only exist in dreams and legend—he soon learns that she has a startling plan for his future: he is destined to command an army of beasts to protect humanity from the Conclave—a brutal council of dragons hiding on a distant island.

But Joe is plunged into his new role prematurely when the callous tycoon Argoyle Redwar, who has a secret menagerie of his own, tricks Mrs. Merrynether into revealing the location of the island. Overcoming his fears, the school bully, and an escaped creature on the loose in his own village, Joe races to the island to stop Redwar from provoking the dragons to war. He takes the most bizarre team imaginable: Lilly, the surly alcoholic cluricaun; Danariel, the seraph who lives in a lightbulb; Flarp, the giant flying eyeball who can’t control his excitement; Kiyoshi, the narcoleptic kappa with an extraordinary vocabulary; Snappel, the fiery wyvern plagued by hiccups; and Cornelius, the poisoned manticore. Together with newfound allies on the island, the champions are forced into an epic battle against fantastic odds, facing not only the Conclave but Redwar as he seeks total control.

The Beast of Upton Puddle was an enjoyable surprise; full of humor, action, adventure and fantastical creatures. 

Joe Copper is what you’d call a somewhat lonely and peculiar kid. But his life gets turns upside down when he meets the local vet, Mrs. Merrynether. It turns out Mrs. Merrynether isn’t a normal veterinarian at all but one that specializes in exotic animals; mythological creatures that people only fantasizes or read about in books.  A magical world and destiny is thrust upon Joe as he becomes Merrynether’s apprentice. 

I really liked Joe.  He isn’t your typical hero but he definitely grows into his character as the story goes on. Joe handled the whole mythological creatures and his destiny way better than I expected. He was of course shocked to learn that he is the key in defeating Redwar Industries/stopping war with the Dragons but fully embraced his fate/duty without questions. But the real stars of the book are Merrynether’s eccentric patients. While some creatures are more familiar than others such as; dragon, seraph, leprechaun and manticore…there are other creatures that I’ve never heard of before such as an kappa that has a face of an ape and a body of a turtle and a floating energetic eyeball. Each of these mythological creatures had unique personality that made them standout and at time outshine our protagonist Joe. 

The book started a tad slow; introducing Joe to wondrous band of misfit beasties took approx. half of the book but other than that it was a fun and engaging read. The Beast of Upton Puddle is a highly creative and well-written middle grade novel that will appeal to kids and tweens alike. 

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