The Hunchback Assignments Hardcover – Aug 28 2009
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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.
"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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Top Customer Reviews
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
For kids, this book would be okay. The story and portrayal of the Victorian era is very vibrant, dark and realistic (steampunk machinations aside) and readers will feel sympathy and maybe a touch of pride at the deformed but resourceful Modo.
For anyone in their teens and older, though, this may be wasted. Besides Modo, there are no particularly colourful characters that catch interest, even the pretty, equally resourceful co-protagonist, Octavia Milkweed, falls rather flat. The story itself starts to lose momentum after the halfway point, and the ending and odd surprises are nothing special (or surprising, for that matter). Whatever drama Slade builds up fails to really make anything of itself come the climax, which makes us wonder why he has bothered with two sequels.
While anyone below the age of fourteen may enjoy Book One of The Hunchback Assignments, anyone above will probably be disappointed.
Modo is an incredibly ugly, hunchbacked young orphan who can change his appearance at will He was brought up in isolation by the mysterious Mr. Socrates to be a secret agent. I really felt for him in this book, he is so young and sheltered in so many ways, but so smart and able to fight at the same time. The scenes where he tries to come to terms with his appearance are touching and really add a human element to the book.
Modo teams up with Octavia Milkweed, a beautiful but street smart young woman who is also part of Mr. Socrates' secret organization. Mr Socrates is a shady and mysterious character who heads an ultra secret agency that is trying to protect the British Empire. Then there are the supporting characters and bad guys who also add so much to the book. The crazy Dr Hyde, is brilliant with all of his potions and clockwork mechanisms. Hakkandottir is an amazing, diabolical evil woman who kids will love to hate.
Slade throws these characters into horrifying scenarios where Modo and Octavia have to use their brains and instincts if they are to defeat the Clockwork Guild and their horrible, yet fascinating, scientific plans.
I really enjoyed the setting of Victorian London and the throwing together of the Hunchback and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde stories to create something unique and interesting. The clockwork gadgets and science aspects of the book mixed with well to create exciting action, mystery and intrigue. Then there is Slade's writing, which is sure to keep kids reading. This book will appeal to both boys and girls who have an interest in history and science, as well as those who like fast paced adventure.
Mysterious Mr. Socrates found a one-year-old child in the back of a gypsy cart with the label "L'Enfant du Monstre." Thinking the child was just physically deformed, Mr. Socrates turned to go; however, the toddler called out to him, and when he looked again, a reformation was taking place. This infant was able to change his facial features, so the deformity disappeared for a few moments. Mr. Socrates immediately recognized the value in this ability.
Four short years later, Modo shows advanced intellectual ability. He is able to read, complete complex mathematical equations, and study languages. Mrs. Finchley, a governess, has been hired by Mr. Socrates to care for him and Tharpa, an Indian man, has been retained to teach him combat skills. The only stipulations on Modo's life are that he cannot leave the three rooms that Mr. Socrates has declared as his and that he must concentrate only on studies that will increase his intelligence.
Though he can feel and even see a protrusion on his back, he is not allowed to see himself until at five, when he is given a mirror by Mr. Socrates. Modo is devastated by what he sees. His face, in fact his whole head, is deformed.
When Modo turns fourteen, Mr. Socrates finally allows him out of his rooms. Unfortunately, the journey that Mr. Socrates takes him on is not the gift he had hoped it would be. On the train to London, Mr. Socrates informs him that he will be aiding in the protection of England. His first task is to survive on the London streets without warning or help.
As the story progresses, Modo succeeds in that first task, so Mr. Socrates and a secret society called the Permanent Association send him on more difficult and dangerous assignments.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I bought this for my 11 year old son who reads mostly non-fiction, he absolutely loved it and can't wait to read the rest of the series. Read morePublished on Dec 23 2013 by Nom DePlume
Very very good book. Great for people who like mysteries. Arthur Slade is one of the best mytery book writers.Published on Feb. 5 2011
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... Read morePublished on Aug. 14 2010 by Karoline
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. Read morePublished on March 30 2010 by Steven R. McEvoy