I need to begin my review of Carnival of Lost by saying how incredibly well written this book is, and how unbelievably lucky the current generation of middle grade titles are to have this book to access. It is the epitome of reading for pleasure when selecting this book to read, as the prologue alone captivates you, and has you excited to immerse yourselves in the adventure awaiting you in the chapters that follow. There are a total of 360 pages in this paperback, but at no point does it feel like a reading challenge in length, and that has to be credited to just how well it is written. Kieron Larwood is definitely at the top of the list of children’s authors to advocate to readers, and this book is a perfect example of how talented a children’s writer he is.
The focal character in the book is Sheba, a young girl that has already endured so much in the few years of her life, and after finding herself in an orphanage is then sold to a man that purchases oddities to add to his ‘show’ at the end of a pier, with her wolf life characteristics deeming her worthy of being paraded like a freak. It is when she is sold off once again, to another man that has a traveling carnival, that Sheba’s life changes for the better, not least because she is no longer alone. Sheba soon gets acquainted with the others in the troupe she has joined, and adjusts to life in Victorian London, which is a far stretch from anything she has known before.
When they aren’t putting on shows for the people of London to gawp at them, the group are able to venture around the house they know as home, and the local area too. During one of the shows they are hosting one evening it is Sheba that makes an unlikely friend in a girl that has snuck in to see them, her curiosity getting the better of her, and Till, a mudlark that scavenges in the low tides of the Thames river for scrap materials, shows Sheba a kindness that is the first time the wolf like young lady has ever experienced. When news reaches Sheba in the days that follow that Till has gone missing the decision to get involved in trying to find her is mutually agreed amongst Sheba and her fellow troupe.
I cannot stress enough her utterly brilliantly the atmospherics are written about within the unfolding scenes in this book, and how you feel so immersed as you accompany the group on their adventures that follow. I could not put this book down, and read it over two days, only stopping for sleep! I also found that I had subsequently chewed my nails short as I delved further and further into the mystery surrounding Till’s disappearance, and the lengths that Sheba and her friends go to in order to uncover the truth. The group are certainly putting themselves in danger as they follow the clues to what has happened to Till and whether her disappearance is linked to that of many other mudlurkers.
Readers can anticipate a fast paced adventure that offers up explosive scenes, kidnappings, mystery, and an insight into what it is like living amongst the streets of Victorian London, but the most part aspect to this story is that of Sheba’s experiences, from her early on caged captivity to her experiences as someone that is ‘different’ to others, and made a spectacle of by the person whose care she is in, and the detrimental effects all of these things has on her. Sheba is an incredibly strong willed young girl, and a role model to all those that come to know of her, and they will definitely keep her in their hearts going forward, so news of book two coming this July is exactly the news they will be longing to hear.
With double page illustrations, spread throughout the book, depicting some of the biggest scenes in the book, there is no doubt readers will agree that they compliment the text perfectly, and offer readers further immersivity into ‘a Tantalising mystery’. The variety of characters that feature within the carnival troupe that Sheba has joined offers readers the chance to pick their favourite, which will be yours? –
- Gigantis, an extremely tall, big built, strong man with a warm heart and gentle side, he is daunting to look at, but when you get to know him you see he is very gentile, and can often be found scribbling in a notebook as a budding wannabe author of romance.
- Sister Moon – With long dark hair, and dark eyes, this young lady can move around very quickly in the dark, which is also when she is able to see perfectly too, unlike at day time. She has incredible skills with throwing knifes, and an intriguing history to boot.
- Pyewacket – A ‘Witch’s Imp’, he can often to found slumbering inside a cage, or reading tarot cards. He has extremely long arms, and awesome parkour skills, and is extremely loyal to his friends.
- Mama Rat – Has six rats that she has taught to perform circus acts too, and looks after them with a nurturing heart. She is the mother figure on the group, often offering wisdom, and offering compliments where applicable. She has a protective and kind nature, and takes Sheba under her wing immediately after they are introduced.
I’m a massive fan of Kieron Larwood’s books, the 5 realm series was amazing and I adored everything about it, so I was more than excited to find out that he had started work on a completely new series, with 3 books in this new series I knew this was going to be brilliant.
I was even more excited when I found out what the series was going to be about.
Sheba, a wolf girl is, brought to a troupe of odd misfits, brought to entertain people.
She’s always felt like she doesn’t belong, but suddenly she has friends who like her don’t fit in. Her friends include a knife thrower, a giant and a witches imp. Like her they are forced to perform night after night or sit there while people scare at her, making comments about her appearance. When children- mudlarks suddenly start getting sucked up in the river Thames the unlikely friends decide to try and discover what has happened to them, and maybe do something the police are unable to do and find them.
Set in Victorian London, a dark, gruesome place you can practically smell how dirty London is, you can feel the darkness all around you. You can see the poverty and you feel for the parents that are forced to send their children out to work. You feel the happiness that Sheba feels when she finally finds some people to call friends, to find somewhere where she can belong.
Sam Usher’s illustrations are so beautifully drawn, on the front cover you see all the characters together, as you read you can picture these in your mind.
Then we come to the beautiful double pages of illustrations, these pictures are amazing and help tell the story and add to the wonderful experience of reading this book.
More often I’m finding that children want to read something different, they want to go on an adventure, they want a mystery and they want a scare. They want a book that has a cover that interests them. This will be so popular with children like this, this will grip them, this will have them asking about book 2. This won’t be in a school library very long, for myself I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series to see what adventures Sheba and friends have next.
Carnival of the Lost is available to purchase from all good booksellers now, and for more insight and additional themed content be sure to check out the previous stops content on the blog tour by using the information on the banner below.