‘Sometimes only the bad guys can save you…’ and the residents of Village Drowning certainly need help. Ruled over by a megalomaniac dictator and struggling to make ends meet, the last thing they need is a visit from a Bog Noblin.
Riley O’Chanter is the book’s key heroine and she is a refreshing departure from typical children’s heroes. Armed with no special powers (except a curious necklace and a complete disability to do as she’s told) Riley – Rye for short – considers the filthy backstreets, gargoyled rooftops and mysterious swamplands of Drowning to be her own personal playground.
The story begins with Rye and her friends liberating a forbidden book in an attempt to discover more about the secrets surrounding their village and its sinister ruler, Lord Longchance. The friends hide in a not-so-secret hidden room in Rye’s house to read the forbidden text and to avoid Rye’s petulant (but adorable) baby sister. Such curiosity lands Rye in serious trouble throughout the book but the unbreakable bonds of family and friendship support her all the way and ensure that we are never truly fearful for her safety.
The denizens of Drowning adore rumour and storytelling and share myths about Bog Noblins and the Luck Uglies. When the hideous Bog Noblins finally confirm their existence by marauding through the village, they are described gruesomely in delicious detail, right down to the mucous dripping from their snarling faces! The village’s only hope is the Luck Uglies – a band of fearless warriors who are shrouded in mystery and hide behind masks. Rye’s relationship with this band of surreptitious swordsmen and their surrounding folklore is unclear, even to Rye herself – but she is determined to find out.
It is through such mystery that Durham succeeds in engaging his readers throughout. Slowly and surprisingly, secrets are revealed to Rye and her friends, usually just when she needs the answer most. However, not all questions are answered and, without the need for an inevitable or frustrating cliff-hanger, Durham manages to leave us eager to uncover more about the Luck Uglies and their legend. Thankfully, we will not have to wait long as the sequel is due for release in March 2015.