From School Library Journal
Grade 7 Up—At 15, Mariah Mundi leaves the Chiswick Colonial School, where he has been since his parents' failure to return from the Sudan, to begin a job as a magician's apprentice at the Prince Regent, a colossal hotel built into a cliff side in the north of England. While the hotel's guests experience luxury aboveground, the slimy, below-sea-level basements abound in magic, murders, and devilish doings. Mariah is befriended by a servant girl, Sacha, and together they try to find Felix, the last in a line of boys sent from the Colonial School who has mysteriously vanished. In an Egyptian sarcophagus deep in the basement, the two find a clue that leads Mariah to fear for his life. The hotel's owner is an evil, narcoleptic man intent on amassing riches and finding the magic box that will turn anything put in it into gold. A kracken, a sea witch, a magic porcelain doll, a crocogon (a dragon/crocodile mix), a crab the size of a grand piano, wax figures, cadavers, and skeletons add to this open-ended story of good versus evil. With a Dickensian feel and an Edward Gorey-like cover illustration, this dark and dense fantasy quest is inviting and highly imaginative. Yet, the plot is overly complicated and difficult to follow, the shifting characters hard to keep straight. Rich descriptions tend to overwhelm the story. This is a book that will appeal to those young people who like to be challenged and who enjoy re-reading in order to uncover new levels of meaning.—Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
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Taylor, author of the Shadowmancer series, begins a new series set in Victorian England. Mariah Mundi is a lad sent from his school in London to work at the Regency Hotel perched atop a cliff in a small coastal town. The hotel itself is a wonder of steam-powered marvels and murky subterranean passageways, but something odd is afoot. The boys who previously held Mariah’s job have all mysteriously disappeared, and to keep from sharing their fate Mariah must uncover an intricately tangled plot hatched by any number of sinister villains. Taylor piles on enough eccentric characters, magic artifacts, and bizarre creatures to keep even the wildest young imaginations churning as Mariah finds himself transported into an increasingly fantastical world. While a good many of the complicated plot devices are not fully developed or resolved and most of the personality is given to the large cast of adults, this remains an atmospheric, diabolically inventive thriller that will keep readers guessing to the last word—even if they don’t know exactly what the mystery is until it’s solved. Grades 6-9. --Ian Chipman