Reading level: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Size: 288 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: From Amazon Vine for Review
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got a copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. The creepy cover drew me and the description sounded like one of those dark fairy tale-like stories that I really enjoy. After reading it I can say that I enjoyed it. It is very much a dark fairy tale. It seems to be aimed at children/middle grade readers; the story is dark enough that it might be too scary and disturbing for younger age sets.
The Witches’ kitchen is ruled by two vile witchy sisters and is a world close to, but separate from, our own. Into this world Toad escapes from being boiled into a potion. Toad has no memory of who she is or where she came from. Toad only wants to escape from the Kitchen, but the Kitchen is constantly changing and there are evil creatures hunting her at every turn. Toad will need that help of the good denizens of the Kitchen to escape. Steadfast at Toad’s side is Natterjack a very resourceful imp who will help teach Toad the ways of the Kitchen, but Natterjack has his own dark secrets. Will Toad remember where she came from and will she be able to escape the Witches’ Kitchen?
In general this is the type of fairy tale that I just love. Dark and somewhat disturbing in the violence of its residents; this is a fairy tale that reminds of the original Grimm’s Brothers tales. The characters are well done and will grab your attention with their nobility and their resourcefulness; the evil creatures will creep you out with their utter vileness. The mystery behind Toad’s origins will keep you guessing. At times this book was a bit like Alice in Wonderful, with the Wonderland being the eerie and unpredictable Kitchen. At times this book channels an eeriness that reminds of Gaiman’s Coraline too.
The pictures throughout are gorgeous and match the mood of the book perfectly. The story is complete and satisfying; overall it is well done.
There were a couple things that could have been done a little bit better. The writing was a bit inconsistent and didn’t flow quite as well as it could have; at times the descriptions were well done and at times they were glossed over. The pacing was a bit inconsistent, but not too bad. For the first half of the book I felt like the story was more of an excuse to introduce the reader to a constant parade of one new disturbing creature after another; it was like every page you turned you were being introduced to another crazy creature. This settled down after the first half of the book, but it would have been nice to have the creatures introduced in a way that wove into the story better, or maybe in a way that introduced them slower so the reader wasn’t overwhelmed trying to remember the new characteristics of each creature mentioned.
Overall this was a great book, I enjoyed it, and am happy that I read it. The story could have been a bit more polished, but it was engaging and interesting. The idea behind the Witches’ Kitchen is neat and the characters involved were wonderful. If you are a fan of dark and eerie fairy tales you will love this story. At points it is a bit too violent and creepy for younger children, but the middle grade audience for which it is intended should enjoy it. I think adults that are fans of dark fairy tales will also enjoy this book; especially if you like books such as Coraline and Alice in Wonderland.