Pop Bop's Reviews > The Icy Hand

The Icy Hand by Chris Mould
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it was amazing
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Darkly Humorous and Ghostly Middle Grade Action/Adventure

I very much enjoyed the first book in this series and was curious to see if this second volume was as interesting and fun as the first. I am happy to report that, at least for me, this book was, if anything, better.

In the first volume of this series we met Stanley Buggles, who is a smart, courageous, inquisitive, and clever hero for whom you are happy to root. The setting, the isolated island of Crampton Rock, is creepy and intriguing, with lots of odd aspects. The supporting characters are sometimes cranky and mysterious, but, (like Mrs. Carelli the housekeeper), can also be warm and supportive in caring for Stanley. Stanley now has a friend in town, spirited, stout-hearted and reliable Daisy. She participates extensively in all of the adventures, and that has opened up the narrative a bit.

The plot of the first book, which then arcs through the whole series, involves Stanley's great-uncle Admiral Bartholomew Swift, (from whom Stanley inherited Candlestick Hall, the Crampton Rock mansion), and a valuable amulet that was hidden by great-uncle Bartholomew. Dastardly villains, mostly in the form of pirates, want the amulet and presumably the treasure to which it points, and everyone's looking for a map or at least a clue to its location. Inconveniently, great-uncle Bartholomew is at the outset a headless ghost, and so not much of a source of guidance or aid.

Each book seems to involve a further step or two toward locating the treasure, and each is a distinct episode in the ongoing battle between Stanley and the baddies to get to it first. In this book, we have two resurrected ghostly pirates closing in on Crampton Rock in search of the magical medallion.
This is a quirky sort of book in that distinctive English kids' book way. The hero has a bit of a poor urchin triumphing over adversity vibe. There are odd bits of magic that drift around the story. (For example, the talking stuffed fish is very helpful.) The villains are very villainous, as though English authors know and believe that even quite young kid readers can tolerate a little more dangerous thrill than they are given credit for. The atmosphere of the settings is appropriately threatening and gloomy. (Is all of England haunted coast, haunted moor, or haunted houses?)

The overall effect is one of jaunty dread. By that I mean the weather is gloomy, there are threatening ghostly figures, there is menace and the hero often finds himself in tight spots. Yet there is always a sense that good will win out and that pluck will be rewarded. As one consequence of this mixture you get a lot of what would pass as middle grade gallows humor, and there is a fair amount of sly, deadpan throwaway humor.

The upshot is that these books are cheerfully wicked and definitely weird, but in a solid, good-humored sort of way. A ripping contribution to filling that fourth to sixth grade gap, where readers are beyond chapter books but maybe not up to full middle grade speed. A nice find.

Please note that I found this book while browsing library goodies. I received no freebies and have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
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Reading Progress

May 24, 2014 – Shelved
Started Reading
May 25, 2014 – Finished Reading

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