After reviewing the third book in this series, I sought out the first book to see how it measured up. I am delighted to report that The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade did not disappoint. Spy organizations in Victorian England battle it out with a sprinkling of steampunk flair. The action, plot, and dialogue are spot-on, but the young spies, Octavia and Modo, elevate the book beyond mere adventure. Octavia has spunk and verve without being acidic or catty. Modo, the protagonist, has the heart of a lion. The characters have layers that can be peeled back to arrive at intriguing complexities and subtle themes. The fact that Slade knows how to end a chapter and how to add a touch of poetry is icing on the cake. Difficult to put down, The Hunchback Assignments is highly recommended!
Violence overall was brief in description and often tended more towards the category of action. Incidents noted were as follows: a brief fight involving some punching and a character becomes unconscious; during an inquisition a character scratches another character’s cheek and pokes at the character’s eyeball; there is a scuffle between characters with some pushing; a character is murdered by being pushed from a window; there is a scuffle among characters and some shots are fired (no one is hit); there is an explosion; two characters struggle with punching and kicking and acid burns a character’s face resulting in a fall; characters arrive at a scene where a horse is injured and a man is pinned under a carriage; a weapon wrecks havoc in London by destroying structures; some characters fight with punching, tackling, strangling, and shots are fired (no one is hit); a character drowns.
Mature Subject Matter:
Mature themes include scientific ethics and experimentation; self-acceptance; control and independence; parental abandonment; the value of individuals versus loyalty to authority/country; priorities and triage in battle; manipulation.
Other content of note was the scientific experimentation and exploitation of orphaned children. While not graphically described, it was slightly disturbing. There was also scientific experimentation on animals.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
An opium den was mentioned.