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City of Cannibals Hardcover – February 1, 2010
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
From School Library Journal
Grade 10 Up—The backdrop is the spring of 1536 during Henry VIII's break with the Roman Catholic Church. Dell, 16, is the daughter of a former court puppeteer and lives in isolation in the countryside with him, her aunt, and her younger brother. Cruelly treated by her father, Dell leaves home in search of "the Brown Boy," as she has dubbed the novice monk who regularly brings supplies to the family. While in London, she learns the truth about her mother's death, discovers her own skills as a puppeteer, and finds and falls in love with the Brown Boy, Ronaldo. Dell is a sympathetic protagonist and readers will root for her throughout the novel and appreciate the hopeful (though ambivalent) ending. Thompson is to be commended for not shirking from the crudeness, vulgarity, and filth of early-16th-century London. However, as the setting and time period are initially unclear, readers may put the book aside in confusion without making it to the second chapter, in which Thompson offers a glimmering of the novel's background. Overall, though, this is a promising debut that historical fiction fans will enjoy if they know in advance where and when the story takes place.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
It’s England in 1536, the time of King Henry VIII’s break from the Catholic Church, but the fact that this is unclear for so long is the book’s best asset. Sixteen-year-old Dell lives in a cave on a country hill with her family (some of whom are dwarves) where she passes the time chatting with her hand puppet, Bartholomew. Her father’s increasing violence compels her to escape to the city. Though it’s a foul, dirty place filled with pestilence, poverty, offal, and chamber-pot spillings, Dell finds none of the cannibals her father had warned her about. Instead, she falls in love with a young man pledged to be a Carthusian monk. Dell’s limited point of view gives the story the delirious spin of speculative fiction until her involvement with a carpenter who opposes the king aligns the plot along a recognizable Johnny Tremain trajectory. Thompson’s England is authentically vulgar, and her grasp of period slang—as well as Dell’s burgeoning sexual desires—is expert. Packed with rich metaphor, this is a challenging but rewarding read. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus
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Thompson deftly weaves a powerful coming-of-age tale from the timeless cords of family, friendship, religion and politics that are as relevant to teenagers today as they were centuries ago. There are a number of mature themes, some sexual in nature. The violence and crude language are true to medieval times, with several vulgar words for bodily functions. Traitors are beheaded, hanged or drawn and quartered, depending upon the King's outrage and morbid pleasure. Thompson depicts such carnage very matter-of-factly, but without unnecessarily gruesome or inappropriate detail. There is no literal cannibalism. The title itself is a metaphor, used within the context of the story to elicit fear in young children and keep them in their place.
The author clearly hits her mark in creating quality young-adult literature that is as educational as it is engaging. Her fictional characters are richly drawn, at once unique and universal. Her well-crafted language is both evocative and accessible. The book is historical fiction at its best, extolling freedom and the inalienable human right to simply be oneself.
Laurie A. Gray
Reprinted from the Christian Library Journal (Vol. XIV, No. 5, October 2010); used with permission.
Like a masterful storyteller Ricki Thompson transforms a dangerous state of affairs into a rollicking adventure. She balances the brutality of the medieval period with an innocent love story. Vivid details combined with earthy vulgarity transport readers to London's gritty streets. "City of Cannibals" is historical fiction with a healthy dose of Shakespearean charm and wit.