5.25.2009

Clemency Pogue and The Scrivener Bees by JT Petty, illustrations by David Michael Friend, 165 pp, RL 4


With Clemency Pogue and the Scrivener Bees, JT Petty continues the story he began in Book #2 in the series, Clemency Pogue and the Hobgoblin Proxy. The first book in the series, Clemency Pogue, Fairy Killer, can be read as a stand alone and, for younger children, I suggest exactly that. The story of the changeling with a chip on his shoulder, Inky Mess, begun in Book#2, continues in Book #3 and gets increasingly darker - much like Cornelia Funke's Inkworld Trilogy. And, as I discovered at the end of Book #3, the saga continues! It has been two years since Clemency Pogue and the Scrivener Bees was published and still no resolution! Does Inky destroy Make-Believe or can the amazing Clemency and her hobgoblin crew, Chaphesmeeso and Kennethurchin, who's secret, true name Clem uncovers by the end of the book, finally put a stop to his evil ways?

Even though I have to wait for the answer to this question, I still had fun getting to it. Book #3 is swarming with new and horrible creatures as well as some pretty funny new fairies, even if Inky is capturing all of them. The book begins with Clemency worrying over her parent's deteriorating relationship. At the same time, Inky is sneaking into the institution where his mother, well, Kennethurchin's mother really, lies in a catatonic state. As a changeling, a creature goblins make from clay to use as a decoy when stealing human infants, Inky seems to have some abandonment issues to work out with his mother, who went insane when she realized her real child had been replaced with a changeling. However, when Clem teaches Inky to read, thus learning "human magic," one of his two major grudges against the world is resolved. Unfortunately, he uses this new skill to take control of the most powerful piece of magic in Make-Believe, the Forgetting Book, in which all of Make-Believe, including the true names of every fairy and hobgoblin (the knowledge of which allows the possessor of such complete control over the fairy or hobgoblin.) And, if you are wondering, the Scrivener Bees are magical creatures that live in a vale of coal black flowers called kettlepot blossoms which is surrounded by a thorny hedge. They sleep during the day and work at night and are watched over by the Fairy Queen of the Scrivener Bees. The bees can answer any question asked, with the help of the Queen, and both Inky and Clem seek answers over the course of this book. This painful and fascinating part of the Scrivener Bees is that they use their needle-like stingers to tattoo the answers to the questions onto the asker. Inky has lots of questions. Clem has only one and, as the bees tattoo it on the back of her neck she cant read it until she finds a mirror. But, by the end of the book she has fallen into bed, exhausted, as her parents stand over her tucking her in wondering, "Is that a tattoo?" and "What does ask the right questions mean?" The final page is Inky's drawing of how to make a fairy trap...

Above all else, I hope that JT Petty finishes this story. Clem is one of the greatest girl heroines I've read in a while and I feel like there is so much more that can be said about her. The Houndsankes, the lopped-off boxer tails from Clemency Pogue and the Hobgoblin Proxy, have grown into massive, creepy things but play a relatively small part in the book. I am sure that Petty has more creepy things up his sleeve, but I am willing to tough them out in order to see Clem, Chaphe and Kennethirchin prevail. And, when the series is all done, they can repackage it into one convenient 600 page paperback...

2 comments:

Jeremy said...

We're reading the first one out loud right now and enjoying it -- thanks for a good recommendation.

It is an odd one, though...the language and wordplay is quite high-level considering the subject matter. I had to stop a lot and explain to Ella what was going on (and word definitions/references), a bit like our least favourite Far-Flung Adventure, Hugo Pepper. Are the older kids who able to read and understand this still going to be interested in fairies and hobgoblins? Perhaps that's why the series gets darker in the later books, to be more compelling to older readers?

Tanya said...

You know, I am really mystified by these books. Like you said, the word play and references are at a level much higher than the subject matter of fairies and goblins, at least how we readers of kid's books think of these creatures. There are actually quiet a few teen series that have faeries as characters. One of the most popular is by Holly Black, co-author of the Spiderwick books.

I suggest you pre-read or at least skim #2 and #3 to make sure they aren't too dark for Ella. After checking out JT Petty's website and learning that his real job involves making horror movies, I feel like that might explain the tone of his books a bit.

I just realized that I didn't really finish writing the review. Check it again if you'd like a few more details about the book...