Title: Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (The Enchanted Attic #1)
Author: L.L. Samson.
Pub. Date: May, 2012
Summary: A hidden attic. A classic story. A very unexpected twist.
Twin twelve-year-old bookworms Ophelia and Linus Easterday discover a hidden attic that once belonged to a mad scientist. While relaxing in the attic and enjoying her latest book, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ophelia dozes off, and within moments finds herself facing a fully alive and completely bewildered Quasimodo. Ophelia and Linus team up with a clever neighbor, a hippy priest, and a college custodian, learning Quasimodo’s story while searching for some way to get him back home-if he can survive long enough in the modern world.
Genre: MG/YA, Fantasy
I have a special fondness for books that feature famous literary characters. Jasper Fforde does this expertly and I love him for it. Last year one of my favorites reads was Arthur Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments. When I came across Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I instantly wanted to read it. I couldn’t wait to jump back into a book featuring Quasimodo! (Embarrassingly enough, I have never read The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, now that I’ve got a few books under my belt with Quasimodo as a main character, I feel as though it’s definitely time to read the book that started it all.)
Ophelia and Linus Easterday are sent to live with their uncle and aunt while their parents go off chasing butterflies for five years. Being shipped off to live with strange relatives can put a damper on any fourteen-year old’s day and this case is no exception. Uncle Augustus and Aunt Portia are…odd. They have a huge interest in themed parties & dinners (for example, a pea-green dinner – every dish contained a green color, whether it was real or artificial) and force the twins to partake in the events.
The only saving grace to their new living arrangement is Aunt Portia’s bookshop. She specializes in antique and rare books (she’s a lady I could definitely be friends with!) and Ophelia is an avid reader. There’s also the exciting rumors that surround the house’s previous owner. Cato Grubb, a devious mad scientist, had owned the house before Augustus and Portia moved in and his bizarre disappearance was so sudden all of his belongings were left behind.
One day the twins come across the remains of Cato’s laboratory, complete with a wide array of bottles and potions and interesting drawings on the floor. After Ophelia happens to fall asleep in the attic (where the lab is hidden), she discovers something truly amazing: a flesh-and-blood Quasimodo is on the floor in front of her.
In YA novels, it seems to be convenient to have the parents absent. That’s not the case with this book: Portia and Augustus ever-present! Despite what the twins think, I’d love to spend a week living at their house. Old books and medieval parties and right up my alley!
I was surprised by how fast-paced this book was! It actually was a bit too quick for my liking. And, unfortunately, once the magical element became introduced the story was bogged down with a number of rules and regulations (many of which didn’t seem to be fully explained).
There’s a boy staying for the summer at the nearby boarding school who the twins befriend. Walter is charming and British and has a past! These boys tend to be my favorite characters, but it seemed that all Walter did was exercise. There were a few pivotal moments in the book (huge, HUGE scenes) where it mentioned Walter started doing push-ups. Or Walter decided to do sit-ups. His lack of character development was upsetting.
Quasimodo was easily my favorite character. Such a sweetheart. Since all that bell-ringing has made him deaf, Walter ‘borrows’ a pair of hearing aids for Quasi. Hee! Quasi also develops quite a taste for tea and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.
The rules dictate that Quasi only has sixty hours before he needs to get back to his world, lest he be vaporized. Those sixty hours went far too fast and despite the kids determination to show Quasi their world, they aren’t able to do much other than eat snacks.
The climax was, well, anticlimactic. The story has built up to that moment and it was such a letdown for me. In the end there were many questions left unanswered, but I know this is the first book in a series, so hopefully problems will be settled in the next book.
Overall, I enjoyed Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame. The writing style in the beginning reminded me of Roald Dahl novels (never a bad thing!). However, the narrator quickly wore out his welcome: he was always using ‘big’ words and then defining them. I definitely could have done without that. I’m still not entirely sure what the narrator had to do with the story other than the main characters were too busy to sit down and write out their adventure.
While this wasn’t a bad book at all, there were some things I didn’t love. However, I’ll probably check out the second book (especially if it deals with Moby Dick – the book Ophelia was reading at the end of this novel).