What a fantastic feast for the imagination 'Malamander' is! This is a whimsical, page-turning wonder of a book; one that really thrills and excites from the very beginning. Bravo!

Herbie Lemon is Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel in the mysterious town of Eerie-On-Sea. The one thing that he didn't expect to be lost is a girl's parents: Violet Parma's parents, to be exact. Violet urges Herbie to unravel the disappearance of her parents in an adventure that will involve mermonkeys, dastardly villains and a weird sea creature known as the Malamander...

Thomas Taylor is also an illustrator (he illustrated the first covers of Harry Potter, no less) so it isn't a surprise to discover that his writing is so wonderfully visual and titillating for the imaginative brain. 'Malamander' feels so fresh and new and exciting, while also feeling, in some ways, very traditional. There is something of the surreal about it; Salvador Dali's lobster clock wouldn't be out of place here. It's also a bit seaside Punch and Judy and sort of the Grand Budapest Hotel by the sea with peculiar creatures and quirky characters. Herbie is a fabulous narrator: an unexpected posh and slightly reserved voice thrown into unbelievable circumstances. His voice sounds adult with a childish charm about it. Equally the hodgepodge of side characters have a real life and energy about them, and I only hope Taylor explores them more, and the town, in future books.

As well as being visual, Taylor can evoke atmosphere like switching on a light bulb and then suddenly turning it off, plunging the reader into darkness and unease. The end chapters are particularly claustrophobic and edge-of-your-seat thrilling - but I won't spoil why here. There are also so many twists and turns and magical moments. Finishing it was like waking from the most fantastic dream... So I was by the seaside in this weird town and this girl lost her parents but there was this creature at sea and some kind of egg... 

'Malamander' is simply a joy to read: entertainment of the highest order! It makes me want to grab a pen and paper and draw pictures of astonishing sea creatures, like any child would want to do - immediately! 


© 2021 by Chris Soul