Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches, by Michel Guyon

For those who like portal fantasies with malevolent magic at work both in the other world and ours, with epic monster battles, here's Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches, by Michel Guyon (October 19th 2021, by Andrews McMeel Publishing, in the US, 2018 in the UK).

Archibald Finch and his big sister Hailee are not at thrilled when their parents decide to move into Grandma's manor house, which they'd never visited before, after her death. It is a huge house, full of stuff, and tremendously creepy. The huge fireplace, for instance, is decorated with women being tortured for witchcraft. Unlike most kids thrust into houses full of old stuff, these two have desire to explore...except that Archibald thinks his Christmas present from his parents has been hidden in it, and so he starts to search.

Instead of his present, he finds an ancient globe, it surface covered not just with maps but with fantastical creatures. When, in a stroke of luck (?), he unlocks the globe so that it can spin again, he is drawn into it, and on into a world called Lemuria. It is a world of monsters--Marodors--who come in a slew of deadly, twisted shapes, and the only people living there are the girls dedicated to keeping themselves and their enclaves from falling prey to tooth and talon.

Though Archibald would be among the first to admit he's not much of a fighter, he has no choice but to join the girls who found him lost and confused in the monster infested wilderness. But Archibald, with his fresh perspective, see something in the monsters that the girls don't, and sees, as well, all the questions they aren't asking...

Hailee, back in the ordinary world, and traumatized by watching her brother disappear into the globe, is also faced with mysteries to unravel. Following a twisty path of clues, she too finds herself facing monsters...in human form.

500 years ago, girls were burned as witches. 500 years ago, an escape for them, to Lemuria, was crafted. But Lemuria was never a utopia; the evil that created the need for it warped it from the beginning, and is still very much alive and well...

I was not immediately hooked by this one. Archibald is not an appealing character; he's annoying, and anxious (the author himself says "To put it plainly, our hero is a bit of a wimp." And the story is told in the first person present, which isn't my favorite. But as the pages turned, I realized that I was reading one heck of a mystery. I also very much enjoyed the immersive look at the lives of the girl monster hunters, a world in which Archibald gets to grow into himself, becoming a character I enjoyed spending time with.  I also liked Hailee very much, once she stopped being a unsympathetic big sister and became passionately determined to get her brother back. (I became resigned to the third person present, but never to the point of enjoying it....). 

The book is generously illustrated with detailed, creepy black and white drawings, which I'm sure added value to people who are able to stop and look at pictures and appreciated them when they are reading (I have to force myself to do this, which I find jarring and uncomfortable, but I did go back and appreciate them after I was finished with the words).  

But regardless, somewhat to my surprise, by the time I reached the end I was hooked, and I will happily (despite the choice of tense), continue on deeper into this maelstrom of magic and malevolence! Recommended in particular to young readers who love monster hunting; lots of really top-notch monster battling!)

If you are curious about the book, do check out its website where you'll see for yourself how fascinating the world of Lemuria is (lots of gorgeous illustrations on view!)

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

1 comment:

  1. I received several copies of this and was very curious to see what you would think. The text was very small, and this was not immediately intriguing, so I'm going to pass.


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