This is a fun, traditional fantasy with invading monsters, an evil earl, and mysterious cloaked people.
The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham. Harper Collins Children’s, 2014.
11-year-old Rye O’Chanter’s life has been pretty much the same for as long as she can remember. She and her little sister Lottie live with their mother and an extra-fuzzy black cat in a small cottage on the edge of the village where her mother runs a charm and jewelry shop. They have a number of rules for keeping safe, all in rhyme – but mostly Rye has memorized them without knowing why they’re necessary. She and her best friends Quinn and Folly spend time tracking down forbidden books and racing around the town. The biggest problem is the constable trying to claim extra taxes from her mother, as he refuses to believe that she’s really married and thinks that a single mother makes a good target.
Then, of course, Strange Things start to happen. Rye, sneaking out after she should be in bed, catches her mother in the inn, wearing a very attractive dress and sitting with a mysterious tattooed stranger. There are rumors of the supposedly extinct Bog Noblins – monsters from the bog on the outskirts of town – coming back. The oppressive Earl’s reaction to this is to try squash the rumors and also any support in the village for the secret society which it believes defeated the Bog Noblins the last time they were around and he claims are simple thieves – the Luck Uglies. Things go from bad to worse, until it’s up to Rye, her friends, and the Mysterious Stranger to save the day.
This is a fun book with so many adventures that the 400 pages didn’t seem at all long. Rye is a likeable character, prone to making mistakes and muddling through anyway. I found myself wishing that things didn’t always work out so well for her when she was going directly against her instructions, or that she had had more ideas on her own and was doing less following instructions in the first place. Perhaps this is what kept me from loving the book, even though I quite enjoyed it. Otherwise, this is a well-rounded tale, with colorful characters in a nicely detailed environment. If you have a fantasy-loving kid that you’re having trouble keeping in books, this is a fine one to try.