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The Hunchback Assignments [Hardcover]

Arthur Slade
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 18.99
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Book Description

Aug. 28 2009

There are rumors that a hunchback infant in a gypsy freakshow has the power to transform his appearance. This comes to the attention of Mr. Socrates, a member of the shadowy Permanent Association, who decides to take the boy back to England and raise him for his own purposes. Naming him Modo, Mr. Socrates keeps the boy indoors and never lets him see his deformity, while putting him through training to be a secret agent. When Modo turns 14, his education is complete. He is handed a mirror and confronts his image for the first time, horrified. Then, he is taken to foggy, polluted London and abandoned, penniless, to test his skills.

But Modo is resourceful, and he finds a way to get by, keeping to himself… until one day, when the beautiful Octavia Milkweed knocks on his door. soon, with the help of Mr. Socrates, they find themselves uncovering a sinister plot being carried out in the very sewers beneath their feet. Will they be able to stop the mad scientist Dr. Hyde and his even more terrifying associates before they unleash their monstrous plans upon unsuspecting Londoners?

The start of a fantastic series, in the hot new genre of steampunk, The Hunchback Assignments takes readers into the sewers and alleyways of an alternative Victorian London, in an unputdownable adventure.

Visit The Hunchback Assignments web site for up-to-date news, games and information about the series.


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Product Description

Quill & Quire

London in the 19th century was a place of wondrous adventure. Secret organizations flourished, spies were everywhere, and man-monsters roamed the alleyways looking to kidnap children to aid in their nefarious schemes. At least, that’s how Arthur Slade portrays the era. And while it may not be historically accurate, that hardly matters when the results are so much fun. The Hunchback Assignments, the latest from the Governor General’s Award-winning author, is a full-steam-ahead spy thriller, complete with derring-do, a dastardly villain, and a suitably complex plot that keeps the reader one slight step behind the wily hero. Modo is a young boy blessed with the ability to temporarily alter his physiognomy at will, but cursed with a natural state as a deformed hunchback. Recruited into the ranks of the mysterious Permanent Association, Modo quickly learns that his talent is ideal for espionage. Slade’s London is an engrossing mélange of the historically precise and the ridiculously imaginative. Working within the genre of steampunk, a mode of speculative fiction that posits a world of technological invention within the trappings of the Victorian Era, Slade crafts a world in which the sad reality of children “[sifting] through the mud at low tide for coal, bits of rope, anything to sell for a penny” exists alongside fantastic armoured men powered by gyroscopes made of “steel bones, the steam pumping out of holes in narrow iron plates.” Slade ensures that the fanciful elements never overwhelm the story through his careful handling of the gallant Modo and the canny Octavia, another young ward drafted into action. Modo’s unusual predicament is handled with aplomb, and children will empathize with his role as an outsider who craves acceptance, even as they revel in an outlandish plot that ends with a promise of further tales of danger. The Hunchback Assignments is a terrific entertainment, exciting and whimsical. Slade’s novel should find ready acceptance among those young readers who crave a touch of darkness in their stories.

Review

"My review could end here and now with one word, brilliant. Arthur Slade comes up with some absolutely amazing plots and this book tops them all. A compelling read, that kept me turning the pages almost faster than I could read them. Modo is a wonderful character, one whom the reader bonds with instantly and feels compassion for, making him a superb hero. Octavia is a strong, yet feminine female hero and the two make for a dynamic pairing.

Slade's writing is as strong as ever. The book contains some quite disturbing scenes which made for a scary read at times but at others the humour is high which gives this quite dark story an even balance of light moments. I loved everything about this book and could simply gush over it. 5/5 Rating."
--Back to Books Blog (Nicola Manning) ()


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Reason for Reading: Arthur Slade had a new book out and I was thrilled to find out it was the start of a series. I had been wanting him to venture out into a series.

Summary: Modo is an orphan taken in by Mr. Socrates and kept house-bound for the first thirteen years of his life where he is trained in body and mind. Modo is a hunchback with a terribly disfigured face which is so repugnant to look upon that Mr. Socrates does not allow mirrors in the house until he decides Modo is old enough to see his reflection. Once Modo has been trained to be one of Mr. Socrates secret agents he is sent out into the world where he uncovers a diabolical plot of the mad scientist Mr. Hyde. While investigating he meets Octavia Milkweed and together they must save the orphans of London and the city itself.

Comments: My review could end here and now with one word, brilliant. Arthur Slade comes up with some absolutely amazing plots and this book tops them all. A compelling read, that kept me turning the pages almost faster than I could read them. Modo is a wonderful character, one whom the reader bonds with instantly and feels compassion for, making him a superb hero. Octavia is a strong, yet feminine female hero and the two make for a dynamic pairing.

Slade's writing is as strong as ever. The book contains some quite disturbing scenes which made for a scary read at times but at others the humour is high which gives this quite dark story an even balance of light moments. I loved everything about this book and could simply gush over it. It's got everything you could hope for in a great read. If you like dark tales set in alternate Victorian England featuring mad scientists working with steam engines, clockworks and human bodies this will certainly be a must read for you! I can hardly wait for the next book to see what direction the series takes. The Hunchback Assignments will appeal to both boys and girls (as well as adults) equally. Recommended
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, perfect for fans of steampunk Aug. 14 2010
By Karoline TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book was a real fun and enjoyable read. The beginning of the book started off as intriguing and interesting that you were immediately curious as to what was going to happen next. The description of the different inventions and machinery in the book were well written and could be easily pictured in one's mind while reading. I really did like the plot, it was fast, lots of action on the pages, lots of intrigue (I love intrigue!) and mystery, and naturally it story leaves you with what's next on Modo's agenda. There is plenty of steampunk here for those that love the genre. I especially like the clockwork birds.

Modo is very easily liked and he's your typical 'although he's deformed, he's got a heart of gold' type of character. Mr Socrates is your typical 'boss' character, stonefaced, hardly any emotion, and usually is just there to tell others what to do. All characters in the book are likable and fun in their own way(Octavia is very interesting).

I really did like the secret society concept used in the book. It gives the plot more mystery and especially if a member of royalty involved it enhances the mystery and intrigue even more. Yet even after being finished with the book there are still questions needed to be answered about this society and it's obvious that we have not seen the last of them yet.

What bugged me about the book was the animal experimentation.Yet it wasn't graphical and bloody, but the idea still bothered me though. Another thing I didn't like is sometimes the description - a particular description of a machine was very hard for me to picture. Then again that could be because I'm not so mechanically inclined - perhaps other readers may find it easier to figure it out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully inventive March 30 2010
By Steven R. McEvoy HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book is like a cross between a William Gibson Novel, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and the Matrix. Modo is a secret agent; he was raised almost from birth by Mr. Socrates who is a member of a secret agency within, or on top of, the British Government. Their goal is to protect all things British and to make the world in its own image. But unlike Neo's ability to shape his reality, Modo can shape himself. He can change his looks and appearance and Mr. Socrates believes this gift will make him an excellent agent. Therefore he invests years in his upbringing and training in all the skills he will require.

The story is classed as SteamPunk. It takes a historic setting, time and place and adds in technology they did not have at the time. Kind of an alternate reality storyline. Once the adventure begins the story is a race to the climax. Modo meets another agent of Socrates, a beautiful young woman named Octavia Milkweed and together they must discover the truth around missing children - a missing grandson of the queen and strange stories of feral children with incredible strength, and bolts coming out of their shoulders. Their enemies are a mysterious Clockwork Guild and their mad scientist Dr. Hyde.

This story was great fun to read. After the first few chapters about Modo's upbringing, it races through to a great battle. The story is compelling and Modo, with his abilities and his difficulties, is a charming protagonist. It is another great novel by Governor General Award-winning Canadian author, Arthur Slade. We can only hope it will be the first in a series, for upon finishing the book you are left wanting more and wondering what will happen between Modo and Octavia.
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