Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Darkmouth: The Legends Begin

Darkmouth: The Legends Begin

Shane Hegarty
Fiction  Series
For ages 9 to 12
HarperCollins, 2015   ISBN: 978-0062311252

Some children, when they are born, become part of a long line of family members who faithfully carry on the family business. They grow up to take on the mantle of being landowners, bankers, musicians, doctors, politicians, or business people. Often their life is mapped out for them by parents and grandparents, and they go along with what is expected of them. Though this kind of thing is less common these days, Finn is just such a person, and his case he is expected, when he turns thirteen, to become a fully-fledged Legend Hunter.

For centuries, creatures from the Infested Side, monsters such as basilisks and minotaurs, have been slipping through gateways that connect their terrible world with the human world. The places where these “Legends” turn up are called Blighted Villages, and in response to these attacks carefully trained individuals called Legend Hunters have set up their homes in the villages so that they can always be on call when a Legend arrives. Darkmouth in Ireland is the last reminding Blighted Village in the world, and Finn’s father is the resident Legend Hunter, the only one of his kind who is still fighting Legends. For forty-two generations, members of Finn’s family have fought and defeated Legends, protecting the lives and property of the people of Darkmouth. Finn is supposed to be the forty-third Legend Hunter in his line but there is a problem; Finn is a completely incompetent when it comes to fighting Legends. The three times Finn has attempted to subdue a Legend have all ended with his father having to rescue him. It is all so very humiliating.

The truth of the matter is that Finn does not really want to be a Legend Hunter. He would much rather be a vet, a person who heals animals instead of desiccating them and storing them in a jar. He clearly has no skill for the profession, and he finds the prospect of spending his life tracking and hunting Legends more than a little depressing. Unfortunately, Finn’s wishes do not matter. He is the son of a Legend Hunter and a Legend Hunter he must become. His father, Hugo, forces Finn to train and to confront Legends, and talks at length about his own Legend hunting prowess when he was Finn’s age. Hugo talks at his son, and he never listens to what Finn has to say about his own future. Finn admires his father, but more and more often he does not really like him that much.

What Finn and Hugo don’t realize is that the Legends on the Infested Side are becoming increasingly desperate. They are running out of the element that allows them to open the gateways to the human world, and it won’t be long before none of that element is left. Once it is gone they will be stuck in their horrible world forever, cut off from what they call the “Promised World.”

Meanwhile, Finn and his father continue to squabble about Finn’s lack of Legend Hunter abilities, and Hugo continues to work on a device that he hopes will be able to get rid of all the remaining Legends once and for all. Hugo has been invited to join the Council of Twelve and if his device works his place on the Council will be guaranteed.

As his life gets progressively worse, Finn begins to get indications that his father is keeping something from him. A Legend that comes through a gateway tries to give Finn a message, but is desiccated before he can finish what he has to say. Finn and Hugo also notice that the Legends coming through the gateways these days are all carrying crystals with them. The crystals are clearly significant but they don’t know why. They never imagine that these Legend attacks are building up to one that will endanger everything that they hold dear. They never imagine that one of their allies is in fact a traitor.

Readers who love adventure stories, monsters, and magic are going to thoroughly enjoy this marvelous tale. The adventure elements of the story are gripping, and the narrative is full of interesting plot twists. In addition, the author does a masterful job of exploring the relationship that Finn has with his father and his destiny.