Published: January 6, 2015
Genre: middle grade, fantasy, steampunk
Grubb, age twelve (or thereabouts), has never known anything beyond his miserable existence as a chimney sweep, paid only in insults and abuse by his cruel master.
All of that changes the day he stows away in the coach belonging to a mysterious guest at the inn that he is tasked with cleaning. Grubb emerges from Alistair Grim’s trunk and into the wondrous world of the Odditorium. Fueled by a glowing blue energy that Grubb can only begin to understand, the Odditorium is home to countless enchanted objects and an eccentric crew that embraces Grubb as one of their own.
There’s no time for Grubb to settle into his new role as apprentice to the strange, secretive Mr. Grim. When the Odditorium comes under attack, Grubb is whisked off on a perilous adventure. Only he can prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into evil hands-and his new family from suffering a terrible fate.
Grubb knows he’s no hero. He’s just a chimney sweep. But armed with only his courage and wits, Grubb will confront the life-or-death battle he alone is destined to fight.
Grubb (spelled like the worm but with a second b) is an orphaned chimney sweep working for a very large, very grumpy Mr. Smears. An accident at the local inn drives Grubb to hide in a trunk stowed in a carriage — and the next thing he knows, he’s a stowaway granted permission to live in the dark, mysterious, glowing Odditorium. He stumbles across several enchanted and mechanical objects, all running off this strange blue or red energy. But Mr. Grim instructs Grubb to not ask questions, to not cause trouble, and to not touch anything. A small mishap with a tinkered pocket-watch sends Grubb on a wild journey across time and space with a sorcerer, a banshee, a witch, a business investor, a fairy, and countless Odditoria to save Victorian London and prevent the Odditorium’s magic from falling into Prince Nightshade’s hands.
What a witty and fun adventure! I thought Odditorium was going to be a quirky Victorian Gothic book, but it’s not. It felt like a child Dickens mixed with Potter mixed with Snicket — and yet wholly unique. A mixture of Roman mythology and Celtic lore, with a dash of Victorian culture, and a dollop of magic, Odditorium is definitely a whirlwind of a read. I especially loved the illustrations by Vivienne To — it really added to the story!
From the character names to their personal catch phrases, their hidden talents to their mysterious stories, it was enjoyable to watch Grubb’s world change in a matter of days from a skinny, starving, dirtied chummy to that of a sorcerer’s assistant risking life and limb to save a remarkable collection. The little academic inside me cheered.
The story ended on a good note with a hint for a sequel. I do hope one comes out. This was a great mini Dickens-meets-fantasy read.
This qualifies as book #1 in my resolution to read 10 library books in 2015.