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Gory but pleasing
on 28 May 2013
A dark and troubling tale about a young boy called Osbert, who grows up in a fictional (fantasy) town in which a brutal academy shapes not only young minds, but rules over the rest of the town with a rod of iron. Osbert, along with a young girl called Isabella are the two only children bright enough to attend the school after the yearly entrance exams. Entry is a double edged sword. You need to be part of the establishment to flourish, but the school is such a place of horrors it will be a miracle if you survive your time there. Osbert, with the help of his vodka swilling, cigar smoking nanny, learns a thing or two about survival, and after a particularly horrible incident which leads to the sacking of his favourite teacher, Osbert sets out to take revenge on all those who have thwarted him, and his friend Isabella.
This is gruesome and grisly in the extreme. Osbert slaughters his way through a large cast of characters and learns a great deal about the darkest parts of human nature along the way.
I enjoyed the book. It reminded me rather of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unnatural Disasters series, but with more brutality. The illustrations by Chris Riddell are perfectly suited to the material and the whole book was intriguing and kept me turning the pages long after I really should have put it down and gone on to do something else.
I would say that it is suitable for children aged 10 and up, although if you are sure your child can stomach a bit of gore, then it would be fine for younger, more confident readers.