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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Vincent Verdigris is a master thief and outsider, arriving in the mysterious and highly superstitious Degringolade for the first time. Heiress Citrine Capodel is looking for her father, who has been missing for a year, but her only help lies in reading the fortune cards. Folly Harpelaine is hunting something, and knows far more than she's letting on. While Jonah is a straightforward mystery, showing up where he's least expected.

At first these four very different young people have nothing in common. But Degringolade is a strange place, with unexplainable forces at work, and haunted tar pits filled with the spirits of the restless, murderous dead. It's a place where anything can happen, and on a night when the moon is at its furthest point from the world, several unexpected things did. Now these four are locked together, whether they like it or not.

Step into F. E Higgins's new world, where corvids peck at corpses, bodies are thrown in tar and Lurid ghosts wail and writhe. It's a complicated, morbid world in which these four characters live. And what characters they are - brave, clever, strong, capable, thieving, deceiving, suspicious and superstitious. But loyal too, once they sort themselves out.

This is a great tale, part puzzle - as the four heroes gradually join up - part mystery, and all adventure. Prepare for theft, murder, betrayal, attempted murder, more theft, dark dealings, daring escapes, more attempted murder, brave rescues, even more theft and a spread or two of cards. It's clever, quick-paced and fun. There's little chance for your attention to wonder, and with perilous cliff-hangers like these you'll read through it in no time.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Phenomenals is strange, dark and oddly addictive. I was surprised by the intensity of it's Gothic themes and they're very well written; birds pick at skeletons, wraiths wait by the bubbling tar pits and there are public executions. F. E. Higgins seems to have an endless imagination when it comes to the bizarre and macabre. The further along you are in The Phenomenals the more blackness you uncover. Particularly enjoyed the quirky characters; Citrine Capodel - the rich girl, Vincent Verdigris - the thief, Jonah Scrimshander - the giant and Folly Harpelaine - the seeker. All four characters are caught up in a cat and mouse chase around the town of Degringolade and it's horrid, bubbling tar pits. When a series of events throw the four Phenomenals together fate dictates it's up to them to save themselves and the town. I'm not telling you anymore. The book's quite short and I don't want to give anything away and spoil it for you.

Don't worry about the book being too scary. It's not. There's a lot of energy and humour in the plot and the dialogue's quite sharp and witty which manages to lift the darker elements and make you smile. Highly recommended and certainly very different.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A novel of fantastical fiction from writer F.E. Higgins, who specialises in stories of this kind for younger readers. By fantastical fiction I mean tales set in almost real world style locations, not unlike central europe of a few centuries back. But with fantastical technologies and creatures intruding.

The recommended reading age for this is nine and up, thanks to some mildly gruesome moments.

The book runs for two hundred and twelve pages and is divided into thirty three short chapters. It is the start of a series, thus although there is a minor amount of closure at the end, it does leave a lot of loose ends hanging for future volumes.

Set in a teutonic style land, there are four main characters.

Folly, a girl who is a seeker well versed in the dark arts. On a quest involving creatures known as Lurids.

Vincent, a boy with a metal hand who is a highly skilled thief and pickpocket.

Jonah, a one time sailor who is big and strong and very good with certain weapons.

Citrine, a rich girl whose father has gone missing.

The narrative will switch between them as viewpoint characters frequently as it goes along. Although a couple of supporting characters are used in that way also.

The story is mostly about Vincent and Citrine at first, as the latter finds herself accused of a crime she didn't commit and the former encounters a powerful adversary whilst going about his trade.

The prose is very rich and good at creating the feel of the setting, although this and a lot of place and character names all being thrown at the reader in quick succession at the start do mean it's a book that it can take a little while to get into it.

But it is worth taking slowly and sticking with, because the plotting and the characters do all come together very nicely as things go along. All four are very drawn and appealing, and get even more so once they come together and have to interact.

With macabre moments, heroism and villainy galore, and a group of good characters in an interesting setting, this is a fantastical read that should hook anyone, aged nine or over. The Phenomenals will return. And I look forward to it.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"Pilfering Picklock" Vincent is on the run, arriving at Degringolade - a place unlike any he (or anybody else) has seen. Here all is exceedingly nightmarish. Corvids feast on bodies dangling from gibbets, remains to end up in the smelly, ever-bubbling tar pit - their shades "wot won't settle" determined to rise again. Superstition is rife, inhabitants weird - their walking most odd, so determined are they not to step on cracks in pavements.

(This tale has no Chapter 13.)

Villains should not be crossed, as Vincent finds out when he tries to steal from one of them. Soon he is minus three fingers but with three unlikely young allies: a white witch, a nautical giant and a wronged heiress. Evildoers should now tremble: The Phenomenals have arrived!

It is all great scary fun, befitting an author who lives in a haunted house. Young readers prone to nightmares had perhaps best avoid. Others may well relish these lively adventures, narrow escapes a speciality. Prepare too for words never met before, this a community where the lucky few pedulate on a Trikuklos and where slumgullion proves nourishing.

Certainly different! First of a series too, which is good news for fans.

In short, Spletivus!
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on 29 December 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is the first of a soft fantasy series, based around 4 characters: the pickpocket, the orphaned heiress, the hunter and the veteran located in a city where superstitions, ghosts and magic prevail. Book 1 introduces the characters, reveals part of their history and enough of their characters to understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the background of how they come to be known as the Phenomenals.
The storyline is good, but sometimes moves too fast with not enough details and too many new words/terminology and language introduced without enough fleshing out. Subsequent books will obviously build upon this new world and will make it easier to understand and follow the nuances, but I felt that for such a short book it had too much novelty. Though undoubtedly still interesting, some may struggle keeping focused. Overall, the setting and characters are interesting, the plot could do with a bit of fleshing out and illustrations would help considerably in bringing it to life and piquing the interest of younger readers.
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VINE VOICEon 27 December 2012
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've been a fan of F E Higgins for some time now - I got hooked by "The Black Book of Secrets" and read on from there. Ms Higgins has been described as a "master of the macabre" and she certainly shows it here.
Set in the city of Degringolade, the book draws four people together - Folly, the Seeker, Vincent, the thief, Jonah, the giant and Citrine, the rich girl. Together they must form a team to outwit evil, but in doing so become outcasts themselves, hunted by the law................
The author takes us on a roller coaster ride from elation to terror and despair, and then back again. The goulish descriptions are excellent and the way the story unfolds keeps you reading.
Highly Recommended for all ages!
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Phenomenals are four alleged criminals who have to protect the county of Degringolade from a Lurid - the released spirit of someone who was hanged and buried in the tar-pits. But an evil lamp-seller has made the Lurid almost invincible. It is a well crafted adventure with plenty of action. My 10 year old son was so engrossed by the book that he completed it in two days and the first word he said after finishing was "amazing".

This is the first in a new series in a new fantastic world populated by a part mechanical thief, a giant, a seeker and a rich girl. Now he is eagerly waiting for the next instalment.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"This book is really strange, I have not read anything like it before, but I did really love it. It was funny." As told to me by the 10 year old girl I asked to review this book. I guess she is the target audience so should know...
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 May 2013
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I read this book in the space of 2 afternoons, it is quite black but never goes in to "scary" territory, in fact my 11 year old son read it and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Looking forward to the next in the series.
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VINE VOICEon 14 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this book, which is a surprise cause its a young adult target range. The story is gripping, it holds your attention and keeps you in suspense and in the end you won't want to put it down!
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