Reading Level: Middle Grade
Length: 288 pages
Release Date: March 6, 2012
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Rating: 3/5 stars
“Hans doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. When he was a baby, he washed ashore in a wooden box and was adopted by the conniving grave robber Knobbe the Bent. Now fate has thrown him together with Angela von Schwanenberg, a young countess fleeing for her life from the evil Archduke Arnulf and his dreaded necromancer. Together, these friends are on a daring quest to discover Hans’ true identity and to save Angela’s parents from the archduke. In this world, anything is possible with luck and imagination – even for a grave robber’s apprentice.”
I have has this book to read for a couple years; it ended up being an okay read. It’s decently written but very predictable. The story reads a lot like a fairy tale and has a lot of elements of stories you’ve probably read before (a young girl running from an unwanted marriage, a young man who doesn’t know his parents and finds out they have noble origins).
Parts of the story are pretty gruesome. I know this is aimed at the middle grade audience but I doubt I would want my son (who is nine and reads lots of middle grade books) reading most of this. The grave digging parts can be pretty stomach turning; additionally the evil Archduke is marrying young girls and then killing them after he obtains their dowry (again pretty disturbing when you think about this old man marrying 12 year old girls). There is also talk of torture and gruesome taunts made to Angela’s parents (a raw human heart and gems are delivered to them on a platter at one point).
The story wraps up decently and the writing is easy to read. The whole story has kind of a dark a gruesome atmosphere to it. I never really engaged with any of the characters that well and kind of just breezed through the story and then felt kind of “eh, that was fine” by the end of it.
Overall this is an okay dark and creepy middle grade read. While the story is decently written…it is incredibly predictable and I am uncertain what the true target audience is (some themes are too mature for middle grade audience but the characters are middle grade in age).