A steampunk reworking of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Hunchback Assignments tells the story of young Modo – a boy who was abandoned by his parents due to his horrible disfiguration, but taken on by Mr. Socrates due to his ability to manipulate his disfiguration and changes his features and body shape. After fourteen years of training, Modo is dropped off in the middle of Victorian London to learn to fend for himself.
Soon, he meets up with the lovely and spunky Octavia Milkweed, an agent working for Mr. Socrates. While they are investigating the disappearance of street kids, the two get embroiled in the middle of a plot of a mysterious society (and the evil Dr. Hyde) working to create a huge weapon. When Mr. Socrates goes missing, it is up to Modo and Octavia to put a stop to Dr. Hyde before he destroys London society.
Firstly – isn’t this cover so much more adorable and appealing than the one that is being sold in the USA? SO happy to be Canadian sometimes – this is one of those times.
I think I would’ve liked this a lot more if I hadn’t read Arthur Slade’s other books already. See, here’s the thing: Slade has this thing in all of his books that is so very Arthur Slade-ish, for lack of a better definition. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s there. And it just wasn’t there for Hunchback, which makes me horribly sad. It was still good and enjoyable, and I still loved the story and the characters, but it felt like there was something missing that could have made it SO MUCH more.
But, if I forget that this is by Arthur Slade, then it’s awesome. It’s a lot of fun and the characters were all wonderful. It reminded me a lot of Catherine Webb’s Horatio Lyle books. Not just the steampunk aspect, but the atmosphere and the solving of the mysteries that get thrust upon them and the whole evil stuff happening in the sewers. Oh, and of course the fact that the font for the title names is exactly the same.
As far as the mystery goes, well, Slade’s good at coming up with mysteries and situations that are a little disturbing. He did it in Dust, and he did it again in this one. The fact that there’s a group of people who have figured out a way to harness children’s energy, in a way that almost makes them werewolf-ish, in order to create this huge weapon of mass destruction, well! Plus the fact that this same group has found a way to control people in an almost Imperius Curse sort of way, it’s a little frightening.
Then there are the characters – Modo completely breaks my heart. That poor, poor darling boy who has never had anyone really love him, and who really just wants Mr. Socrates to love him like a son! Whose own parents abandoned him because of his disfigurement. Oh, my heart goes out to the poor kid. Who has been trained so hard and formed to work Mr. Socrates will in investigating scary stuff. Poor kid who never even went outside until he was fourteen!
And little Octavia Milkweed, former pickpocket, and now secret agent, also working for Mr. Socrates. Whose idea of a perfect day would be spent wearing trousers instead of a dress. Who is so bright and smart and adorable.
The Bottom Line
Not Slade’s strongest novel, but still enjoyable. I’m definitely interested to see where this series leads. Would like to see more of Modo and Octavia in the future.
A Fair Substitute for Heaven. Have you reviewed this book on your blog? Let me know and I’ll add your link.