Leah's Reviews > The Hunchback Assignments

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade
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Drop what you're doing and read this now! I've been raving about this book for the past week and am finally able to sit down and put all my flailing into words.

"For heaven's sake, boy, put your mask on," Mr. Socrates snapped. "No one should see your face."

Mr. Alan Socrates hears about an odd little child and buys him. It sounds remarkably cruel - and it is - but it's as simple as that. He takes Modo (a terribly sweet but horribly deformed boy) to his estate, Ravenscroft, and there the child is raised.

While Modo views Mr. Socrates as his father figure, the man is hardly around. He's always off traveling and on the rare occasions that he does decide to drop by, he quizzes Modo in order to see how his studies are going.

Modo is raised by a wonderful woman, the caretaker of the estate. Whereas Mr. Socrates only allows Modo to read "approved" material (certain articles from the newspaper, for example), Mrs. Finchley will go out of her way to sneak in a picture book or two, something fun and light-hearted. She was the first person to truly care about Modo and it broke my heart when Modo had to leave Ravenscroft.

Modo undid the knots and removed the mask, setting it on a table. He felt naked. This was not a face for the world to see, Mr. Socrates had told him so.

The masks are vital. Until Mr. Socrates decided Modo was to leave to estate, Modo had no idea what he looked like. All of the mirrors and anything remotely reflective were to be removed. I wanted to rush to Modo's side the day Mr. Socrates forced him to see himself for the first time.

Modo has a wonderful gift: shape-shifting. He's able to see a portrait or merely use his imagination and his entire body will change and take on the features of another person. Mr. Socrates is determined to use Modo's ability to his advantage.

Mr. Socrates is the head of a secret organization that employs agents to do various tasks. From the time he was bought, Modo had been trained to become Mr. Socrates' ultimate agent.

When Modo is 14, Mr. Socrates takes him to London - the very first time Modo has ever been outside - and leaves him there. ...just leaves him. He tells Modo he'll check back soon and that Modo should put his training to use and fend for himself.

At various times throughout the book I wanted to throttle Mr. Socrates. This scene was one of those times. Here was Modo, a terrified boy who has never been outside before, suddenly dropped off in the middle of London and told to have a nice life. Throughout it all, Modo was such a sweetheart, I wanted to reach into the book and give him a huge hug. :( Don't let the jerks get you down, Modo. ♥

Modo only nodded, but smiled idiotically under his handkerchief.

Oh man. Modo's crush on Octavia (another agent employed by Mr. Socrates) is so, so, so insanely adorable. They were just too cute. I was really hoping their romance storyline would have been given a bit more attention, but there are other books, so yay! So cute.

Dr. Hyde is a mad scientist who took orphaned children (and Prince Albert), surgically enhanced them by placing large bolts into their shoulders, and fed them all a tincture, rendering them fully conscious, yet completely unable to control their bodies. There was a fascinating chapter where a character was under the influence of the tincture. He was aware, yet could not move a limb. Instead, his body moved on its own with its own purpose.

The action was fantastic! The Iron Giant-type machine was so cool and the fact that a prince and little children were all connected to it - literally - and forced to pilot it was neat.

Mr. Socrates gathered up the paper. "As a rule, I prefer no descriptions of my agents to appear in print."
"It won't happen again, sir," Modo said. "Next time I'll just let myself burn up in the blaze."

I adored watching Modo grow. In the beginning, he was a tiny, timid boy who had no idea what the real world was like. After Mr. Socrates comes back into Modo's life, Modo is different - but in a good way. He's no longer scared and naive. He's a character you get to know and come to care about and multiple times I was honestly worried for him. I wanted things to work out for him, I was rooting for Modo the entire journey. When his transformations began to wear off or his masks slipped, I was scared for him. When he started having flutter feelings whenever he was around Octavia, I squealed in delight.

"Marvelously boring. Though there is a good sword fight at the end."

♥ One of my favorite scenes in the book was an Octavia/Modo scene. Modo is reading Hamlet and Octavia walks in on him. She immediately begins to mock Modo for reading not just Hamlet, but Shakespeare in general. Modo unsuccessfully attempts to defend himself, but Octavia isn't having it, although in the end she gives in and mentions the one part of the play she enjoyed.

This book was so, so, SO wonderful! I can't wait to tear into the next!
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