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The Secrets of the Pied Piper 1: The Peddler's Road Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Max and Carter reluctantly join their folklorist father on sabbatical in Hamelin. Yes, that Hamelin. So savvy readers won't express too much surprise when a flood of rats descends from the kitchen vent and the mysterious exterminator who comes to fix the rodent problem actually lures the pair to a fantastical land called the Summer Isle. There, Max and Carter discover a walled village built by the 130 children led away in the familiar Pied Piper tale, a group desperately working to defend themselves against an array of nefarious magical beings who populate the rest of the Isle. In Will in Scarlet (Knopf, 2013), Cody reimagined the Robin Hood legend with verve and charm, focusing on a young protagonist. In this first book of a projected trilogy, Cody attempts a similar feat on a more ambitious scale, meshing contemporary and historical characters as well as folkloric creatures from multiple European traditions. An endearing, resourceful team—the siblings plus three medieval Hameliners—undertake a treacherous journey across the Isle, during which Cody ably delineates each character's personality to yield distinct perspectives on their quandary. In a loving yet complicated sibling dynamic, older sister Max struggles to concede responsibility for her goofier brother, who handles his physical disability with stubborn aplomb. Juggling a squad of children, a Piper-opposing wizard (the titular Peddler), and a prophetic map, Cody's saga furnishes much pleasing kerfuffle but sometimes feels frustratingly diffuse. The ending sets up an obvious path for book two, and while many elements of this book augur rip-roaring sequels, readers may wish that the first had provided more narrative focus and a firmer resolution. VERDICT This opener assembles a promising collection of characters and fairy tale elements but leaves the motley components scattered a smidgen too wide.—Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY
"Shifting among various characters' perspectives, this engaging story introduces a world filled with human-size rats, magicians, kobolds, elves, ghosts, and more. Cody weaves an inventive fantasy that spans time and space in its exploration of the lighter and darker sides of magic." - Publisher's Weekly
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The Pied Piper tale may resonate because it's one of the few tales with no traditional resolution. The children of Hamelin are taken away - but to where and to what ultimate purpose? This book starts at that point and spins out a continuing tale that's part Neverland and part folktale survey mashup.
The opening of the book is gripping and dark. Cody nicely captures the Piper's sinister and hypnotic call. We then switch to modern times and meet the two kids we know immediately will be drawn into the Piper story. Again, this is set up well, with portents, and dark figures, and a "rat extermination professional" instead of a piper. And our heroes, Max and Carter are fine. Having a mildly wild-child older sister and a thoughtful, shy younger brother doesn't exactly break new ground, but both characters are built for the long haul and have reader appeal.
But then we get to "New Hamelin". We start with loads and loads of exposition and explaining in order to get all of the characters and the reader on the same page storywise. I can see that as a real benefit to younger readers who aren't familiar with how these sorts of books work. NO SPOILERS, except to say that this then becomes a quest along a road in search of a way home. The book sticks with the Piper angle, but we get many more characters, more borrowings from other tales, (Baba Yaga?), and pretty much an anything goes fantasy and magical creature walk-about. I was O.K. with that, but be warned. While this could have been a tidy and entertaining stand-alone book, it is actually the first in a three book series, and is loaded with cliffhangers. I'm undecided whether this has was it takes to draw me through a trilogy, so be forewarned.
(Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Max (short for Maxine) and Carter are two children living in the modern era. They are staying in Hamelin with their father, a folklorist. By the time they realize they are caught up in the Pied Piper story, they are whisked away and taken to the Summer Isle.
The original children of Hamelin have made their home on the Summer Isle. They are aware that they have been there for a long time, but they have no idea that they have been living there for 800 years. Their bodies have not aged, but they have lost their memories of their homes and their families.
They tell Carter and Max that life on the Summer Isle is not always idyllic, and that terrifying creatures come out at night, like the giant rats. They also tell Max and Carter that they believe that their arrival signals fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. The two modern children must set aside everything they have been told about magic not existing, and join their new friends on a quest to the other side of the Summer Isle. The journey is long and dangerous, but if Max and Carter ever want to get home, they need to search for the secrets of the island and its most famous resident.
Over the course of the story, Max and Carter must both search evaluate what they want from life. Max is brash and abrasive, and needs to learn to work with the other children. Carter wears a brace on his leg, and has always been more of an observer. But on the Summer Isle, the other children value his opinion. He has an opportunity to take on more of a leadership role, but he needs to believe in himself.
In addition to a village of ageless children, Cody has filled the island with all sorts of magical creatures. From the mischief of rats (the proper name for a group of rats) enmeshed in a power struggle, to the house on chicken legs owned by a witch, the island is teeming with magic. The children of New Hamelin (as they have named their village) have held heir own for hundreds of years, but can they withstand this latest onslaught?
I would recommend The Peddler’s Road. This is the first installment of a planned trilogy called The Secrets of the Pied Piper. I knew this, but I was still a little surprised when the story ended so suddenly. Talk about a cliffhanger! This is a fun and original adventure story. There is plenty of excitement and some scariness, which makes this ideal middle grade fare. I am certainly excited for the next book in the series, and I suppose I will have to content myself with reading Matthew Cody’s other books in the meantime.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair/honest review.
The story had a good pace, and there was enough suspense and tension without getting too frightening for younger readers. The main characters where all likable, and the sibling angst between Max and Carter is true-to-life. During the story the children encounter lots of obstacles and challenges which help engage the reader and keep the story moving forward. There are giant rats, ghost, trolls, witches, magicians, and elves. There is plenty to keep a young reader engaged, but there are some plot elements that had me puzzled. Some of the sub-plots were also confusing (Shades’ Harbor), and I never understood why the group took the long and winding Peddler’s Road (which made them circle the island going first south then east then back north when there was a much shorter and more direct northern route to the Black Castle).
I also found the ending of the story to be rushed, and there wasn’t nearly enough closure for my taste. The ending is not quite a cliff-hanger, but it is pretty darn close. But on the plus side the ending/epilogue does do a good job of setting up the next book in the series. It has a great hook that has me looking forward to the next book in the trilogy.
So a good story that is well written, but keep in mind that at the end of Book 1 you will have just as many questions as when you started.