Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes - Jonathan Auxier

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
Series: Peter Nimble #1
Genre: Middle Grade, fantasy
Published on August 1, 2011
Published by Amulet Books
Pages: 381
Read From: 4.16.14 - 4.18.14

"Now, for those of you who know anything about blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves. As you can well imagine, blind children have incredible senses of smell, and they can tell what lies behind a locked door - be it fine cloth, gold, or peanut brittle - at fifty paces.
Moreover, their fingers are so small and nimble that they can slip right through keyholes, and their ears so keen that they can hear the faint clicks and clacks of every moving part inside even the most complicated lock. Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few child-thieves left, blind or otherwise. 
At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you've probably guessed, is Peter Nimble."


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love the cover art. It's kiddish, but it's fun and exciting, and it rather denotes a certain time period, even though I have no idea where or when this takes place.

Characters: Peter Nimble is a quick-thinking young boy, who tries to do what's right, but has kept company with the wrong people, and therefore has something of a distorted view on what's right and what's wrong. When it comes to helping people, though, he knows what's right. And he takes pride in his skills, though he gradually begins to struggle with the idea of being nothing more than a thief. I frankly enjoyed a character who was willing to do what needed to be done, even if it required his thieving skills. I am a practical person, and I like practicality in my protagonists, too. Sir Tode took a little while to grow into my affections, as his appearance was very bizarre. A cat with horse hooves and a mustache? Once I gave up trying to envision him, I liked Sir Tode quite a bit. He offered a streak of comic relief that actually worked quite well. He was a good and loyal friend who rightly cautioned Peter Nimble when the boy trusted the wrong people. And can I just say - I loved all of the crows. They were just awesome. Old Scabbs immediately put my teeth on edge, he was too much like Gollum: untrustworthy, constantly scraping and blubbering, and above all has horrible hygiene - oh yes, and he'll put a knife in your back as soon as he can. I don't feel sorry for characters like these, and I don't really feel sorry for protagonists who trust them. I just want characters like Old Scabbs to be put out of their misery. They're like a rabid dog; death would be a kindness. Thankfully, Old Scabbs wasn't around for too long, though he at first threatened to become a permanent fixture. The villain was actually rather terrifying. We don't get to meet him for very long, but his reputation was enough.

The Romance: There isn't any!

Plot: Peter Nimble was found floating in the ocean, a crow having pecked out his eyes. But Peter Nimble wasn't adopted by a kind family; no, he was left to the streets, he learned at an extremely young age how to fend for himself. He now works for Mr. Seamus - a criminal who employs urchin children to steal for him. Peter Nimble lives a wretched life under Mrs. Seamus' cruel hand, until the day he burgles a strange haberdasher's even stranger wagon. He finds a box that contains three pairs of Fantastic Eyes. And when Peter Nimble puts a pair of Fantastic Eyes into his empty sockets, he is transported to the home of Professor Cake. There, Peter Nimble learns that it is up to him to find the Vanished Kingdom and save it from an unknown evil. The Fantastic Eyes have been crafted for him for this very journey. Peter is only to use them when he must, but he'll know when the time is right to use them. With his newfound strange companion, Sir Tode - a hexed knight, - and an incomplete riddle, Peter Nimble sets off on one of the most bizarre adventures ever to grace Middle Grade literature. I adored this book, but it also took me a long time to decide what I exactly thought of it. The Fantastic Eyes are just strange, and when the first pair transport Peter to a lake filled with messages-in-bottles, I was totally confused. Where was this book going?! Once Peter Nimble and Sir Tode start out on their adventure, things get a little more clearer, though no less bizarre. It takes on more of a purpose, and it keeps you guessing all the way to the end. That isn't the say that the twists aren't predictable - they kind of are. But they're still really good, and part of what makes this book so memorable is the cast of major and minor characters - all of them quite memorable - and the bizarreness of the world. The book is also surprisingly dark. People and children are killed, and the Vanished Kingdom is now controlled by a tyrant who has created a world that is dystopian in nature - and a very eerie utopia, at that. But throughout it all, the narration maintains a very comic, Snicket-ish tone. Which almost makes it darker.

Believability: Not applicable. A time period and place is never specified. Is it Liverpool? Victorian era? It doesn't really matter, I suppose.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. There's an omnipotent narrator - the Author - which lends the Reader the ability to see what's going on, when Peter Nimble can't. The style is rich and vivid, ironic and darkly humorous. I loved it.

Content: None.

Conclusion: Like I said, some of the twists are predictable. Does it lessen the fun of the conclusion? No. The conclusion itself is quite exciting and promises a great companion novel: The Night Gardener. I didn't really know what to expect of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. With a title like that, I knew it had to have magic and be rather quirky. I wasn't expecting it to be quite as dark as it was, nor as magnificently memorable as I found it to be. But I can definitely see why so many people raved about this book.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-boy read, nine-and-up, great for fans of Lemony Snicket.

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