by K M Grant Book : Fiction : Juvenile audience
A "meh" book   (2008-11-24)
I had higher hopes for this book - someone compared it to a slightly younger version of The Princess Bride. This comparison was not apt. The idea is that plucky Alice has come to her beloved Uncle Frank's hanging to collect his body and take it back home with her - only the head must remain as a sign to all traitors to not... well, commit treason. Alice steals her uncle's head and runs away with poor Dan Skinslicer, the local hangman, overall nice guy, and doormat. In the process of escaping from London (again and again and again), Alice gets mixed up with a dashing Capt. Ffrench (that's right, two f's!), who has fallen for Alice's blue eyes and ability to coax him down a ladder. To make matters worse, evil Major Slavering is out to catch Alice and anyone else he can say is guilty by association.
This book seems to fall somewhere between historical fiction and historical fantasy, but never quite decides where it wants to be. There are lots of historical elements that might intrigue someone who likes that sort of story, but Uncle Frank's head takes on a magical quality that allows it to wink at people he likes, grimace at others, and stay oddly fresh throughout the story. I think it would've really improved things if the author had chosen one genre and just gone whole hog.
The characters weren't well-developed, with the exception of maybe Dan Skinslicer. I had a hard time telling how old Alice was and assumed that Dan was much older than her. This became awkward when the two started to develop "feelings" about one another. I had the same problem with Capt. Ffrench. I never understood what was so appealing about Alice beyond her "cornflower blue" eyes. Alice and Dan seemed to constantly be escaping London and then finding a reason to wander back there, only to get chased out again. I wish this had been more funny, or more enjoyable, but after awhile, it just got dull.
More than anything, I was annoyed with the ending and who ends up with who. I know this story is somewhat based on family history, but it seemed like all signs pointed to a different sort of ending, and the author was determined to have it end in something resembling a fairy tale.
Skip this and go read The Princess Bride.
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