I stumbled upon the audio version of Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (Weinstein Books, 2007) which is read gloriously by Christopher Lane, btw. I am a couple of years late coming upon it (its sequel, Alex and the Wigpowder Treasure came out last year, so it obviously did well at the bookstore).
[update: Adrienne Kress let me know that this title is actually the UK title for Alex and the Ironic Gentleman and that the sequel is Timothy and the Dragon's Gate, which is out now, see below. Thanks for the clarification, Adrienne and I apologize for the confusion!]
There is a great deal of good to say about this story. For one, Adrienne Kress has a magnificent, snarky storytelling voice, and she unfolds the tale with a sarcasm and wit I thoroughly enjoyed.
The first few chapters hooked me immediately -- tomboy Alex Morningside is a great character, and I love it when the main character in an adventure story is a girl.
Typically orphaned, 10 year old Alex lives with her uncle and before long, her beloved sixth grade teacher, Mr. Underwood, ends up moving in with them as well. Turns out, Underwood happens to be the descendant of a famous pirate, and only living heir, to a lost treasure.
So begins Alex's involvement in helping Mr. Underwood find the missing treasure map, and subsequent treasure. That is, until Alex's uncle is murdered by another band of pirates (led by the dreaded Captain Steele who is also trying to get the treasure). And, as if that wasn't bad enough, the beloved Mr. Underwood is taken prisoner.
And here's where the train jumped the tracks a bit for me (lucky, it re-railed itself near the end). As Alex heads off, determined to rescue Mr. Underwood, the story veers off in odd directions, like David Lynch at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. She has one odd encounter after another, with quirky characters who do bizarre things.
Alex boards a train that travels for hours but never gets anywhere, but carries an ever-shrinking group of people who seem to be living the same party over and over. And don't even ask what's in their champagne glasses. When she finally escapes that scene, she discovers a hotel deep in the woods, complete with talking appliances. This journey to save Mr. Underwood is packed with an offbeat oddness that I eventually warmed to, but at first found unsettling.
That said, I found myself re-hooked throughout the last quarter of the book, right up until the Last Chapter, "in which all the strings are tied up". The sequel, Timothy and the Dragon's Gate (2009, Weinstein Books) will be making my to-be-read list. Seriously, a combination of dragons and Kress' writing style has got to be good.
Listed for 10 and up. I agree, maybe even older for the more sensitive reader.
3 1/2 bookmarks, leaning toward 4. If you've read this book, what did YOU think about it?