The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

monstrous devicesTitle: The Monstrous Devices
Author: Damien Love
Genre: Science Fiction, Adventure
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Rock the Boat
Published: 19th May 2020
Format: Paperback
Pages: 352
Price: $14.99
Synopsis: A cinematic and original page-turner for fans of Indiana Jones and Alex Rider

On a winter’s day, twelve-year old Alex receives a package in the mail: an old tin robot from his grandfather. ‘This one is special,’ says the enclosed note, and when strange events start occurring around him, Alex suspects this small toy is more than special; it might be deadly.

Things get out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, saving him from an attack – and his otherwise humdrum world of friends, bullies, and homework – and plunging him into the macabre magic of an ancient family feud. Together, the duo flees across snowy Europe, unravelling the riddle of the little robot while trying to outwit relentless assassins of the human and mechanical kind.

With an ever-present admiration for the hidden mysteries of our world, Monstrous Devices plunges readers into a gripping adventure that’s sure to surprise.

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When the robot Alexander receives a mysterious robot from his grandfather, he has no idea what is in store for him. Soon, it seems as if the robot has come to life. Soon, Alexander and his grandfather are racing through Paris and Prague as they try to solve the mystery of the robot that comes to life and does things that Alexander never thought possible, and invites danger into their lives that is at times scary, and that Alexander and his grandfather need to get out of so they can resume their daily lives.

This intriguing novel combines adventure and quest stories, with living toys, ancient myths and stories from the past about the golem, and robots in a unique way. It merges magic and reality seamlessly, and incorporates themes of science fiction and stories of how the living robot came to be, and is at times, scary or worrying, but action packed from beginning to end as they try to bring an end to an ancient family feud fuelled by macabre magic, and people who aren’t quite who they say they are.

At times, it feels apocalyptic – as though the robot and those who want it and want to control it are going to win. It feels as though it is a whole story, that the ending wraps things up nicely. Yet at the same time, there could be a sequel. The Tall Man who appears has a connection to one of the characters that is hinted at but perhaps not wholly resolved – and as the mystery of the robot unfolds, we are told along the way about Alexander’s absent father, whose non-presence in the novel shapes the characters and forms an interesting plot line that works well not being resolved – we don’t always find out everything – yet also works to hint at a sequel – either way, this plot line is woven throughout as Alexander ponders who his father is and what is going on with the robot and his grandfather.

This is a book filled with mystery and danger at every turn, as it draws on the golem legend from Jewish culture, and a Rabbi Loewy who is linked to the robot and the store it was taken from in Prague – this theft opens up the novel – where we first meet the tall man and the young girl who accompanies him. They are a constant presence in the novel – whether on the page or off the page, and their role gives the novel the scary undertones – what do these two people want, and who are they are two questions constantly at play throughout the novel.

This was a different novel for me – most of the things I read don’t have robots. It was interesting, and perhaps gives a brief look at what things could be like if robots did take over or at least, what could happen if they could read our thoughts and act of their own volition. In this way, it was a touch scary at times, yet also engrossing – to find out if Alexander and his grandfather succeed, you have to read on. It captures the imagination and once in Prague, takes the reader somewhere new and historic. It evokes a sense of history and mystery, and magic in a place that has a long and complex history within Europe in many ways – perhaps too many to list here.

This is an interesting and mysterious read for confident readers aged nine and older, and will take you on a journey you’d never expect.

Books and Bites Bingo – Scary: The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love

books and bites game card

Choosing a scary book was hard for me – I tend not to read much horror fiction that most people would classify as scary. So I always knew I would struggle with this square and how I would interpret it. As I move through this bingo, some squares have been open to interpretation, others not so much, and so I have been filling it as books fall across my path, whilst others, I have books planned – I just need to read them.

Scary, much like a book with bad reviews, is going to be subjective. With the book with a bad review – I chose that one because other people had given it a bad review, but it turned out that I didn’t want to continue with the series, especially after being inundated recently, and I do have one that I am putting off that will fit that square.

During this challenge, and all my reading challenges, I’ve been prioritising books based on release date, request or whether or not the author is taking part in my isolation publicity series – at least, that has been and remains, my goal.

Back to scary – what I find scary might not be what others find scary, yet at the same time, I recently read a book that I didn’t find scary all the time, but there were one or two scenes that gave me the shivers, and that sensitive readers might find scary and troubling. This is a book that is to be released on the 19th of May, and my review will be going live that day.

monstrous devices

The Monstrous Devices by Damien Love has elements of scariness in it, or it did for me. The idea that a robot could come to life through magical or other means is a bit scary, because then it means the robot can think and act of its own volition and the consequences could be dire. This is why it fits here, because sometimes, it gets a bit frightening yet at the same time is still engrossing. It may not be as scary as traditional horror but there are some things that I just cannot bring myself to read, and that is one of them. Luckily, this one was also on my review pile so I’ve killed two birds with one stone to get this post done.

Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan

apollo 1.jpgTitle: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle
Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Puffin
Published: 1st May 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 528
Price: $17.99
Synopsis: The first book in a breathtaking new series from Percy Jackson creator, Rick Riordan.
How do you punish an immortal? By making him human.
After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favour.
But Apollo has many enemies – gods, monsters and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

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I received the fourth book in this series to review – that came out prior to me receiving it so I thought I should read the first three so I wasn’t lost, as I have heard these are series that need to be read in order. Having not read the original series, I worried I would be lost there, but enough hints were dropped, and enough has been explained for readers new to this world through this new series that I didn’t feel I needed to – others may however, feel differently and that is okay.

Apollo has been cast out of Olympus – the exact event is hinted at and explained but possibly happened in the original series or the other series linked to these books, The Heroes of Olympus. Still, I did get enough backstory to understand without reading everything else.
In this series, Apollo has, as he did in some of the myths, upset Zeus (bad move). As punishment, Zeus makes Apollo a mortal as punishment for starting a riot at Olympus – a myth cycle Riordan has used here. Under the human name, Lester Papadopoulos, Apollo’s service is claimed by demi-god, Meg McCaffrey, and they are taken to Camp Half-Blood by Percy Jackson. Here, Apollo meets several of his demi-god children, and Meg finds out who her godly parents are – complicating her unfolding history more, much of which is deeply hidden until a crucial moment.
Here, they face many tests and trials – and investigate campers who go missing, and take part in a three-legged death race, and finally, face an enemy called ‘the Beast’. And so begins Apollo’s first task – to protect a hidden oracle, who has been hidden for millennia, so the Beast cannot control the future. The book ends on a cliffhanger, that will lead into the next book and his subsequent tasks as he serves demi-god Meg McCaffrey until his punishment is over – rather reluctantly at first, until he becomes quite fond of her.

This book has the right balance of fun and fantasy, adventure and myth. It manages to combine the myth cycles in a way that is interesting way that is accessible to those familiar with the myths, but also those who are not, and introduces them to a new world of research and interest. It will definitely appeal to teens and young adult readers as well, and is suitable for ages eleven and older, I think.