Macmillan Children’s Books, p/b, £5.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
The Phenomenals is the first in a new Steampunk-influenced series by F. E. Higgins. I haven’t read her previous work so didn’t really know what to expect, but you may have noticed from my other reviews that I’m always up for checking out children’s books.
The plot and structure are quite appealing: four young protagonists are woven together into an over-arching storyline – each character is based around archetypes, each one with mysteries and sub-plots of their own. They are flanked by some solid – if at times clichéd – supporting characters and villains. I liked quite a few of the characters, although I was instantly bored with Vincent Verdigris, the dashing orphan picklock; are young readers really so keen on this type of character? I have to assume so since they seem to be shoe-horned into every story I read lately. Anyway, that aside, I like the other three main characters a lot and was interested to see how each would develop.
My main, and only real, criticism of the book is its heavy-handed language. Considering this story is aimed at 9 year olds and up, the vocabulary borders on the pretentious and at its best is distracting. It’s just too much in a book of this size to have every single detail described and qualified to such an extent, with words that may create an arcane atmosphere, but may also serve to alienate the young reader.
However, there is much to enjoy in the tale and I look forward to reading the next in the series.