There’s a good sense of story in this novel, which will appeal very much to its intended 8-12 year old market. Main character Warren is our male Cinderella, cruelly treated by his aunt, forced to eat porridge for every meal and expected to clean and maintain the large hotel in which they live with lazy and useless Uncle Rupert. The guests have abandoned the hotel which has been in Warren’s family for generations since his father died and Uncle Rupert has come in to fill the gap. By the time Warren gets to inherit there might not be any business left. Suddenly, rumours of hidden treasure brings the guests back in droves and Warren has to solve riddles, defeat black magic and outwit the other guests and family if he is going to keep the hotel.
It does seem that this is the start of the series and it is one which could be very popular. Warren is a likeable character and Aunt Annaconda’s treatment will stimulate the audience’s sense of justice and fair play. It’s outrageous, funny (even this adult reader laughed out loud a couple of times) and rattles along at a good pace. (In fact the last third might have been a little too frenetic for me- I was glad when things calmed down for the Epilogue, which does a good job of leaving the story open for further adventures). Characterisation is a little broad and sometimes random (an unexplained monster living in the boiler room?) but the junior audience will be able to take this all on board.
When I used teach children of this age range I was always on the look-out for stories that would appeal to the whole class, to both sexes, to the range of abilities and knowledge of English and this is certainly something I would have chosen and I feel it would read aloud well. With its combination of traditional storytelling and sense of the “weird”, this would appeal to fans of Lemony Snicket and stories of this type. Illustrations were not visible on my preview copy (and the above image is not necessarily the final cover) but are being undertaken by Will Staehle. If Warren the 13th is given a good visual image throughout the book, and he is a strange looking chap, Tania Del Rio may very well be onto a winner.
Warren The 13th And The All Seeing Eye is due to be published in November 2015 by Quirk Books. (British Publication date TBA)
Thanks to Netgalley for providing this title for me to review.