Nine is an orphan pickpocket determined to escape her life in the Nest of a Thousand Treasures. When she steals a house-shaped ornament from a mysterious woman’s purse, she knocks on its tiny door and watches it grow into a huge, higgledy-piggeldy house. Inside she finds a host of magical and brilliantly funny characters, including Flabberghast – a young wizard who’s particularly competitive at hopscotch – and a hideous troll housekeeper who’s emotionally attached to his feather duster. They have been placed under an extraordinary spell, which they are desperate for Nine to break. If she can, maybe they can offer her a new life in return…
It isn’t often that I read a book in a single sitting, even middle grade. But this one did it for me. And sure, it was a shorter book (240 pages). But it was also immensly readable and a whole lot of fun.
We follow Nine, and orphaned thiefling who finds herself inside a magical house, inhabited by Dr Spoon the alchemist, Eric the troll housekeeper, and Flabberghast, High Wizard, Chair of the Tea Tasters Committee, World Hopscotch Champion 1835. The house is cursed… the inhabitants cannot leave it, the toilets moves around, the toad’s tongue is missing so they cannot move around, and worst of all: they cannot open the tea cupboard. And Nine is the only one who can break this curse.
Nine was a great character. She is feisty and has had to learn to fend for her own and never show weakness. So yes she helps out, but only for the reward. She doesn’t say sorry, or thank you. She isn’t nice, but after what she has been through, she shouldn’t be. Seeing her grow and find kindness throughout the story is just wonderful to read. Eric is the cutest and I want to adopt him. Flabberghast is very reminiscent of Howl (though the magical, moving house also adds to this feeling).
I would have liked to have seen more of the house. Sure we see the garden and its bats with acid dung, we see the crypt of the Somtimes-Dead, the skeleton in the closet, the burping sugar-bowl and the growning staircase. And all this made me hungry for more. For example, we never got to see Nine’s room. But it looks like there will be a sequel, so maybe we will see more then.
This book was utterly ridiculous, magical and so much fun! I adored it.