March 29, 2012
The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
Modo doesn’t know who his parents were. In fact, he only knows three people — Mrs. Finchley, his governess and tutor; Mr. Socrates, his guardian; and Tharpa who trained him in self-defense and martial arts. His whole world revolves around the handful of rooms in which he’s spent his fourteen years . . .
Until the day Mr. Socrates takes him outside and abandons him in the streets of London. The purpose — to see if he has what it takes to not only survive but to thrive.
Before long, Moto has set himself up as a finder of lost things, traveling the rooftops and disguising himself as needed. For the power of disguise may be Moto’s greatest talent, molding his face, limbs and body into any form for a matter of hours. Its painful, reshaping bone, and Moto relies on his masks as much as possible for he is hideously deformed — a fact Mr. Socrates makes sure he is painfully aware of.
And then he meets another trainee — the beautiful, resourceful Octavia Milkweed. Can the two truly be friends if he cannot let her see who he really is? Even Mr. Socrates has warned him to hide his true appearance.
But soon the two are tracking down something truly twisted and evil. Someone is kidnapping orphans and poor working children, implanting bolts in their shoulders and feeding them a formula that turns them half raging animal. What can be the purpose?
When Octavia and Moto find the children and learn what is going on, Mr. Socrates orders them to abandon the youngsters. Will Moto do it or will he die trying to save children who, like he and Octavia, must struggle to survive?
Slade has created an awesome steampunk adventure for middle grade readers. Both boys and girls will find something to love in this story with both a brave young hero and a gutsy heroine. And, the fact that the two young people have a stronger sense of right and wrong than the adults? That will simply be the icing on the cake.
Check out the book trailer (see below) for a sense of suspense and the dark and dangerous mood.