The Hunchback Assignments
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are some mature elements in this dark story: young men murder their fathers; experiments are performed on children and adults. The poor treatment of children may be historically accurate but disturbing to younger readers today. There is no background information that explains why some of the villains are German, and female villains abound. There is some discomfort reading about children fighting evil adults without the magic powers that Harry Potter has available. This falls into the steampunk genre, which has dark story elements and is often, as here, set in the industrial age. This alternative history will be more appealing to older readers with some idea of the real history of the period and the elements being changed.
What's the story?
A deformed baby is purchased from a freak show by a mysterious man who raises him with an ulterior motive. Set at the beginning of the 20th century, the orphan boy called Modo has a magical ability to change his features at will. This suits him well as a young spy in a British agency out to stop an evil anarchist society set on domination. Mad scientists and cruel Germans are kidnapping children and drugging wealthy young men to do their evil deeds. Modo befriends a young girl spy, and they rescue each other in the nick of time -- but the battle for control of London is not over.
Is it any good?
This is a dark book with elements of horror and much manipulation of children by adults. Older readers into science fiction and steampunk may enjoy this book and the series to follow; younger readers will wish there were some humor and may miss the nuances of this alternative history. There is a young hero and heroine, but much violence against children, especially poor children who are kidnapped and turned surgically into machines and robots.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the history of freak shows and curiosities. Do they exist today? What about at fairs or carnivals?
Why did the superstitions arise about anyone different, for example, someone with physical deformities? Out of fear?
Genetic engineering is going on now -- have scientists always hoped to alter humans? For good or evil? Who will police these efforts?
Is Dr. Hyde’s name familiar? What story was the original Dr. Hyde from? How was his mission similar?
Should children be used to fight adult battles such as this one against the Clockwork Guild?