From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up—Thirteen-year-old Jo Larouche lives quietly in the California desert with her adoptive Aunt Lily, an eccentric former film star, and longs for something exciting to happen. She gets her wish and then some when Lily's annual costume party is crashed by an elderly Russian colonel ruled by his digestive system and a giant talking cockroach with a flair for the dramatic. Soon Jo and Lily are swept up by the Order of Odd-Fish, a group of knights devoted to researching useless information, and taken to the fantastical world of Eldritch City, where Jo learns the truth about her birth and destiny. This debut novel has many of the trappings of popular young adult fantasy titles, including an exotic setting, a dangerous villain, and a coming-of-age quest. However, Kennedy's clever plot, rich and fully realized setting, and often witty dialogue cannot compete with his dense, ridiculous prose (e.g., "He could not even think about the Belgian Prankster for too long before he would feel his soul dwindle and teeter on the precipice of being blasted to nothing by the sheer demonic grandeur of the Belgian Prankster."). Very few teen fantasy fans will be willing to wade through the text, no matter how likable the heroine and how fascinating the world of Eldritch City.—Leah J. Sparks, formerly at Bowie Public Library, MD
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The basic plot of Kennedy’s first novel is fairly standard fantasy fare—Jo, a 13-year-old girl who gets whisked off to a strange world, discovers that she is a child of destiny and must combat evil forces bent on the destruction of the world—but it’s so dizzyingly arrayed with Monty Python–inspired window dressing that one might not notice. Jo is a squire to an order of knights dedicated to “fiddling about” and studying such topics as “the philosophy of napkins.” Talking cockroach butlers, a Russian colonel who takes orders from his digestive tract, and a villain called the Belgian Prankster, who wants to either destroy the world or tell the worst joke in history, are just a few of the blatantly weird characters that veer the story into the ludicrous at nearly every turn. Some might find it difficult to sustain interest in such determined high jinks, but in small doses, this is quite hilarious, and readers with a finely tuned sense of the absurd are going to adore the Technicolor ride. Grades 7-12. --Ian Chipman