It's been a while since a book pulled me through itself as rapidly as Paul Durham's The Luck Uglies. Lately, I've been reading a lot of material because I felt that I ought to, or needed to know about it, or required it for research. I have been wanted to get to The Luck Ugliessince I first spotted Petur Antonsson's wonderful cover, but as time wore on, I was worried that it wouldn't hold up. I needn't have. The book starts beautifully--with a rooftop chase--and it's all uphill from there!
Durham has done a magnificent job constructing the fictional world of Village Drowning and has peopled it with a wonderful cast of characters. 11 year old Rye O'Chanter lives by a set of rhyming rules, rules which don't quite mesh with the law as laid down by Earl Morningwig Longchance. When Rye accidentally breaks one of hers, she has an encounter with a horrifying creature. It seems the Bog Noblins have returned! Unfortunately, the Earl has driven out the only group capable of defeating them, the mysterious and possibly criminal Luck Uglies. Rye sets off to learn about the truth about Luck Uglies, though the answers are closer to home than she could have predicted.
This is a delightful fantasy adventure set in a quasi-medieval village, light on the magic but high on the adventure, that digs deeper than the usual good verses evil dichotomies to ask questions about the nature of monsters and outcasts. The world building is top notch, the pace brisk, the balance of humor and tension perfect, and the pay off most satisfying. If I have any quibbles, they're not worth sharing. It's been too long since I enjoyed a work this much. Highly recommended for kids and adults alike. I started my son on it the day after I finished, and he loves it as well! I preordered The Luck Uglies #2: Fork-Tongue Charmersimmediately upon reading THE END. It can't get here soon enough.
Visit Paul Durham's website at www.pauldurhambooks.com.