The Hunchback Assignments Book Poster Image

The Hunchback Assignments



Horror mystery is too dark for most kids' tastes.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

This is a dark story. The young hero, Modo, is a hunchback who is enlisted to work as a spy for a secret agency. He is not operating out of freewill, and his missions may not be wholly good.

Positive role models

Modo and the other agents think they are working for the good of London. There are distinctly evil characters at work, but the motives of the Permanent Guild are also questionable, especially their employment of children. There are some stereotypical characterizations of evil Germans.


Adults and children are kidnapped, drugged, held captive, and have metal bolts implanted in them. Captives are enslaved and/or drugged to follow orders, including murdering their fathers.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

This is historical ficiton -- there are references to laudunum and opium. Some children and adults are enslaved by being forced to drink a tincture.

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?

Book details

Author:Arthur Slade
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Wendy Lamb
Publication date:September 22, 2009
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

This review of The Hunchback Assignments was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

For kids who love sci fi and fantasy

External sites

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written bybook master0192 February 9, 2012

this book is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i think that the hunchback assignments is a very good book where there is adventure and suspense on every turn of the book. I recomend that this book is good and not bad enough to where your kid will have nightmares, so pick this book off the story book shelf and get reading.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written April 7, 2013

Great Book!

This book is for kids 11 and older because of the violence. If the child is mature enough, then 11 is a suitable age to read this book. If not, then 12. There are many lessons learned in this book, but they are hidden deeper than the text. Overall, it is an amazing book and I loved it!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide