‘When twelve-year-old Alex receives an old tin robot in the post, the note from his grandfather simply reads: ‘This one is special’. But as strange events start occurring around him, it doesn’t take Alex long to suspect that the small toy is more than special; it might also be deadly.
Just as things are getting out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, whisking him away from his otherwise humdrum life and into a world of strange, macabre magic. From Paris to Prague, they flee across snowy Europe in a quest to unravel the riddle of the little robot, and outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind. How does Alex’s grandfather know them? And can Alex safely harness the robot’s power, or will it fall into the wrong, wicked hands?’
Monstrous Devices is a fast-paced and unique invention from Damien Love, the novel one that’s recommended for ages 9+ and one I was interested in reading with a class reader for Year 7 in mind. Some of said Year 7 have seen me reading the book around school and have asked what it’s about and if they can read it, so I’ve promised them I’ll look into getting some for the school library. Rock the Boat very kindly sent me a finished copy, which I’ll be giving to our library once the release date has passed!
Monstrous Devices follows the journey of Alex, a twelve year old boy whose grandfather posts him a tin robot with a cryptic message that could just as well be commentary as it could be a warning. It’s not long after the robot has arrived that things begin to change around Alex, and all of what he experiences is nothing that he can explain without them thinking he’s utterly mad. Lucky for him, his grandfather is not exactly an individual with his feet on the ground or one likely to dismiss anything out of hand, and Alex is soon drawn into an adventure that perhaps leaves him with more questions than answers he receives for his trouble.
What I enjoyed most about Monstrous Devices was the dialogue. There’s something strangely charming about the manner in which Alex’s grandfather speaks, his diversions from the topics at hand quietly humorous and written in a natural fashion that makes the character seem animated and alive and easy to envisage. Of course, these diversions are ones that Alex finds frustrating, but I felt that it was a little like watching a children’s film at times, where the material is for the target audience, but occasionally there’s something aimed at the grown-ups for them to chuckle over. The dialogue in the novel in general has an easy and believable rhythm to it, none of it seeming forced or particularly ‘fictional’ in nature, which is something that sometimes strikes when tackling writing children.
The story is one that doesn’t leave the reader with all of the answers to the questions that they must have by the novel’s conclusion, much like Alex does not receive all of the information that he seeks (some of which is by dint of deciding not to ask). What I hope is that this leaves room for more books set in this universe! However, should Monstrous Devices be a standalone, what it encourages the reader to do is to engage in theory crafting and decide what they believe the answers are, or what happened when the full details aren’t provided, which I think are important for younger readers in particular. There is very little exposition in Monstrous Devices, and what there is of it is often through dialogue and reported information, which keeps the plot from ever getting too bogged down in every possible answer and detail.
I would recommend Monstrous Devices to younger readers who are looking to step a little outside of their comfort zone and start reading books with more challenging subject matter and plotting. The story is just eerie enough to be creepy without stretching to horror or outright gore: frightening enough for young readers who like to be scared without being unsettled. I loved this book and I hope my students do too!
Monstrous Devices is out on March 5th! Thank you to Rock the Boat and One World Publications for sending me a proof and finished copy!