I love clever books. This week's reviewed book just keeps unfolding the cleverness the more I think about it.
The Toadhouse Trilogy Book 1, by Jess Lourey, was one I found in the reviews on IndieReader.com, with a big stamp of approval on the review page. I bought it along with The Secret of Spruce Knoll and just finished it the other day. It's not a slow read, it just took me that long to get back to it. I loved it, though.
It tells the story of Aine and her brother Spenser (pay attention to the spelling) who live with their Grandma Glori in Alabama, in the 1930s. At 16, Aine is planning on moving away from the house once she is old enough, and taking Spenser with her to strike out on their own, away from the strictness of their home life. We first meet Aine when she's chasing what she sees as a miniature man through the woods, and the story turns to her and Spenser saving the life of a little boy named Tru. The possible identity of Tru made me smile a little, and you'll have to do some searching. Here's a clue: Harper Lee. This first clever turn in this book just shows how thoroughly it was written.
It all changes one day when their home is attacked by a nasty individual named Biblos. He kills Glori and Aine and Spenser flee in the toadhouse with a young man named Gilgamesh. The toadhouse is a device that travels between stories, shrinking the passengers to a tiny size and taking them to another world.
Aine and Spenser live in a book, and they have to find a clue that will lead them to their actual home, Tir Na Nog.
They journey to other books, starting with The Time Machine. (That part actually made me dream about small squads of midget ninjas dressed like the kid in Terminator 2. No, it didn't do anything weird to the original story. Eloi grunge-ninjas are exclusive to my brain.)
The only memory Aine has of her previous life in the land of fairies is of her mother, whose name is Helen. Along the way, she struggles with her decisions, slowly comes to trust the mysterious, sad Gilgamesh, and watches her little brother begin to grow up. After the last confrontation of the book, the story wrapped up very quickly and made me eager for the sequel.
What I love about The Toadhouse Trilogy is that it feels like a puzzle. There are little clever turns, and twists, and nods to other books, and only hints as to the true identity of the villain, Biblos (I just figured it out this morning.) This clever puzzle of a book kept me thinking of it after I finished it, and I want to know what happens. I care what happens. It's very obvious that Jess Lourey took a lot of care when writing this book.
The next one's out in June.
I will be splurging.