It has taken me way too long to get around to reading Malamander. It has been sitting in my ‘To Be Read’ pile for a while and having heard so many brilliant things about it and its sequel, Gargantis, I felt compelled to take action. This is a fantastic fantasy mystery that is both thrilling and creepy in equal measure.
Welcome to Eerie-On-Sea, a town steeped in legend and shrouded in mystery. A place where the winter weather is bitter…’the wind is like the breath of ice dragons’, the mist is thick and the snow falls heavily. It also happens to be the home of twelve-year-old (S)Herbert (or Herbie as he prefers) Lemons. Herbie works as the lost-and-founder at the Grand Nautilus hotel in Eerie-On-Sea and lives in the cellar. He spends his days handling the left belongings and suitcases of the hotel guests, trying to reunite the left possessions with their owners.
Herbie’s life takes an unexpected turn when one day a strange girl comes barrelling in through the cellar window in desperate need of his help. The girl has lost something. But this is no ordinary item, this is her parents, and she is convinced that Herbie is the person that can help her find them. Herbie finds himself no longer dealing with suitcases, he is having to deal with an actual case - a detective case.
But they are not the only ones in Eerie-on-Sea that are looking for something. And everyone seems destined to face the malamander, the legendary sea monster whose egg is believed to make dreams come true…Can Herbie and the girl stay out of the clutches of the strange Boathook Man? Does the malamander really exist? Is Sebastian Eels telling the truth?
Malamander is a thrilling sea-side adventure that moves on at pace. With chapters that end on cliff-hangers it is a very difficult book to put down as you find yourself desperate to know what will happen next. In the author’s notes we learn that Taylor lives by the sea and enjoys everything about the beach. His connection to the seaside and love for the beach shine through in his writing. It is filled with tension and with danger lurking at every turn as Herbie and the strange girl race around the town searching for clues and trying to uncover the mystery of her missing parents. Along the way they encounter an eclectic mix of characters, some trustworthy, some shady and some are downright dangerous. People that at first seem friends become foes and foes become friends - you are never quite sure exactly who someone is and Taylor keeps readers guessing right until the end. The character names have been carefully chosen, as have the place names and it all makes for delightful reading. Each chapter title is accompanied with its own mysterious black and white illustration and a strange sea creature appears at the end of every chapter. And there’s a wonderful map at the start that was also illustrated by Taylor (he’s a man of many talents) - fancy a visit to the Church of St Dismal or a drink in The Whelk and Walrus Pub?
If you do ever find yourself in Eerie-on-Sea I would highly recommend a visit to the Eerie Book Dispensary where the magical mermonkey will happily choose a book for you (for a small fee of course), “It may not necessarily be the book you want or the book you were expecting but possibly the book you need.” A visit to Mrs. Fossil’s ‘Flotsamporium’ would definitely be worth a visit too! She has all manner of weird and wonderful things for you to see that she has collected from her beach combing exploits. And when you’re hungry, head out onto the pier and pay a visit to Seegol’s Diner for a steaming plate of fish and chips. With a cliff-hanger ending a sequel is definitely needed and Taylor delivers in the form of ‘Gargantis’.
Recommended for 9+.