The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, was picked as the winner of last year's Cybils Award in Middle Grade Speculative Fiction; it's a fast and fun adventure set in Village Drowning, a place threatened not only by an oppressive government but by the terrifying Bog Noblins who lurk in the swamps outside the town. In days gone by, a group called the Luck Uglies pledged to protect the town from the Bog Noblins, a turn away from their past as rogues and rapscallions, but no-one has seen them for years. But then a young girl named Rye O'Chanter finds herself pitted against both the town's dictators and the monsters in a fast and fun adventure--both the Bog Noblins and the Luck Uglies are back!
Fork-Tongue Charmers (HarperCollins, March 2015) continues Rye's story. She's now learned that her father, absent most of her life, is the leader of the Luck Uglies. And the government of Village Drowning is cracking down even harder on its people. Rye and her family are in danger, so her father sends them off to her mother's childhood home--an island far off to sea.
There the book really gets going, and becomes an exciting page turner as Rye and her friends help defend the island against the enemies who have followed them! Old grudges, new friends, and vividly depicted dangers fill the pages--I enjoyed this second half of the book very much indeed; I especially liked the world-building of the island community.
What makes things especially interesting on a thought-provoking level is the question of the Luck Uglies nefarious past, and whether they can, as Rye's father would like to believe, reinvent themselves as Good Guys. And Rye is a heroine to cheer for, and to occasionally want to shake (she's the impetuous sort, not always governed by sane and sober good judgment).
Though the events of this particular installment are wrapped up (more or less), the set up for the next book promises that it will be even more exciting! Any young reader who likes secret societies, brave kids pitted against sinister grown-ups, and magical adventure should definitely seek out this series.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher