I'm sure you can guess what first drew me in to this new middle grade series. (Hint: always judge a book by its cover.) It was both the cover illustration (whimsical & quirky) and the title that made me want to preview this new series for you before its release next week on January 31st.
Fun fact: Jennifer Bell was a long-time children's bookseller before she became a writer. I love supporting booksellers-turned-authors -- only they see how truly difficult it is to write and successfully sell a book from both sides of the process. Freshman authors rarely hit their stride on the first try, and while I won't be granting this book 5 stars, I'll continue to follow the series when the second is released in June.
The Crooked Sixpence introduces us to Ivy and Seb Sparrow, siblings who are staying with their grandmother when a strange chain of events ends with them standing in the ransacked living room of their now-hospitalized grandmother, staring at a very creepy and threatening message etched into the wall.
We can see you now.
Soon a pair of suspicious-looking police officers show up at their door, rambling about things the children don't understand and threatening them with...toilet brushes? Nothing makes sense, but the children know one thing: they need to run.
So begins Ivy and Seb's foray into the world of uncommoners and the market of Lundinor. They learn that hidden beneath London lies a market full of uncommon goods -- things that seem like ordinary objects but serve peculiar purposes -- and that only a select population of people are uncommoners, those who can use these items for their alternate purposes. This is the part of the book that I both loved and felt was underdeveloped. Bell's world building was super creative, and while I saw some comments online about it being too similar to Harry Potter, I actually felt that it was very different and appreciated the quirkiness of it. I only wish that there was more of an explanation, more time spent revealing the world to our protagonist and therefore to the reader. I thought that the characters could use a bit more substance too and am hoping to see that in the next installment.
In terms of plot, I enjoyed reading about the adventure of the siblings and the people that help them along the way, and I liked that there was a bit of a mystery component as well. Though there was some resolution at the end, Bell left a thread open for the next adventure, and I'm looking forward to seeing the return of some of these characters -- especially our remaining villain.
From a seasoned reader perspective, this was a solid freshman release with some things to be improved in the next, but I could see a middle grade reader really enjoying both the adventure and the world building. I'd recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and The Mister Max trilogy.
Bottom-Line Rating: 3/5
Title: The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1)
Author: Jennifer Bell
Publisher: Random House, 2017
Source: Net Galley
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!