Friday, August 5, 2011
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, by Jonathan Auxier
Every once in a while you get your hands on a debut novel, and you have to wonder: if this person can write this well, and they're not like 21 years old or something, what the heck have they been doing with their lives until now?
I'm mostly kidding, because we all know how long it can take to get published, but Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, by Jonathan Auxier, is one of those novels.
This may sound odd, because I work for a Middle Grade blog, but this is the first MG novel I've read this year. It's possible that's clouding my opinion of this book, but I don't think so. I think it's just that good.
Here is the jacket copy:
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the utterly beguiling tale of a ten-year-old blind orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery. One fateful afternoon, he steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher—a box that contains three pairs of magical eyes. When he tries the first pair, he is instantly transported to a hidden island where he is presented with a special quest: to travel to the dangerous Vanished Kingdom and rescue a people in need. Along with his loyal sidekick—a knight who has been turned into an unfortunate combination of horse and cat—and the magic eyes, he embarks on an unforgettable, swashbuckling adventure to discover his true destiny.
And here is what I have to say:
It's very rare that I read a book in less than a week. As a writer with a soul-sucking day job, and a family to raise, there just isn't much time to read. I never read a book a single sitting. Not even this one. But I did read it in three days, which is incredibly fast for me.
I was drawn into this novel right from the get go. Jonathan has a way of telling stories and of drawing you into a world that is absolutely fascinating. Peter is an immediately compelling character, even in spite of his obvious ambiguity. He's a thief, yes, but he's a blind thief, and a darn good one, and we quickly learn that Peter has a strong sense of right and wrong, even if his circumstances have forced him into a life of crime.
Even more compelling, at least for me, and at least at the beginning, was Peter's world. The setting for this novel is fantastic, and is so alive with depth and color that it's almost a character of its own. It reminds me of a cross between Stardust, Through the Looking Glass, Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events, and Peter Pan. In other words: nothing is as it seems, but everything is fun and very interesting.
There is one particular passage I want to quote for you, which struck me very early on when it comes to Jon's ability to describe ... not necessarily the mundane, but perhaps the commonplace in novels of this type:
Screams, as you know, are dreadful, shrill noises that tiresome people make when they want attention. They are rarely effective, as most hearers simply plug their ears and go on about their business. But there is another kind of scream that cannot be ignored so easily: the cry of a creature facing death--a primal, desperate gasp that speaks not the the ears, but to the very quick of our beings. Peter had heard that sound only once before, when freeing himself from a bag of drowning kittens. He was now hearing that terrible scream again, and it was very close.
Sometimes people mistake words like our, you, us, we, your, and so forth for "second person." They're usually wrong, and this is a good example of how it can sometimes get confusing. The narrator in this story is great: subtle, removed, funny, sarcastic, wise, but never in your face. I got along with this storyteller quite well.
There is one review I saw, somewhere out there, that had a complaint about the Point of View, and the fact that a book like this, with a blind protagonist, often uses very vivid visual descriptions. I understand the point that critique makes, but it never bothered me, not once. The narration is mainly told from a third person point of view, and the descriptions, observations, and even expositions are transitioned into so smoothly ... I never once noticed it.
Then again, I'm not a literary critic. I'm just a dude who loves books, and I love this book.
Ahem. So I don't want to go on any longer, because I'll probably end up ruining this story for you, but I can tell you that Peter Nimble comes out this week, and if you enjoy MG novels, this one is not to be missed.
Here is where you can find out more about Peter, and even Jonathan:
TheScop.com is giving away a FREE KINDLE, preloaded with a copy of Peter Nimble.
TheScop.com is also Jon's website, in general.
Jonathan was recently interviewed by my dear friend, Shannon Messenger (she talks about the book, too)
Peter Nimble reviewed on the School Library Journal Blog.
Jonathan Auxier on Twitter.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention that I received this ARC (through Hilary) from the publisher. But, full disclosure, I call it like I see it, and this is a great book, regardless of where it came from.