Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Hunchback Assignments

The Hunchback Assignments

Arthur Slade
Fiction  Series
For ages 14 and up
Random House, 2010   ISBN: 978-0375854033

Mr. Socrates is a spy, a secret agent of sorts who has dedicated much of his life to serving his sovereign and the British Empire. He is gathering a unique collection of people to work as his agents, and to this end, he buys a child in France from the owner of a travelling circus. The child is very young, and yet he is very clever and advanced for his age. When Socrates sees him for the first time, the child is being kept in a cage because of his appearance; the poor boy is a hideous hunchback who has a misshapen face and body. Mr. Socrates buys the child because he has an extraordinary gift; he can change his shape.

For several years, Mr. Socrates arranges for the child – whom he names Modo – to receive a rigorous education. Modo knows that Mr. Socrates has a plan for him, but he has no idea what that plan is. Then, when he turns fourteen, Modo goes out into the real world for the first time since Mr. Socrates bought him all those years ago. Modo learns how to survive in London without attracting attention to himself, and then he is given his first assignment. He and an agent called Octavia need to find out what the members of the Young Londoners Exploratory Society are up to. Something very sinister is going on behind the scenes, and Mr. Socrates fears that someone is planning an attack on the very heart of the British Empire. In addition, orphaned and abandoned street children in London are going missing, and the few that have been seen have clearly been experimented on. Who could be doing these things and to what end?

This is the first title in a new series that promises to delight readers who like tales of high adventure. Set in Victorian London, this steam punk novel is full of colorful characters, dastardly villains, and surprising plot twists.