Steam punk! I think. I’m pretty sure.

The Hunchback Assignments but Arthur Slade

In Victorian London Mr Socrates, as part of the Permanent Association, goes to France to see a monstrous child he’s heard rumours of. As part of a traveling show, he finds a toddler in a cage. But not just any toddler. His hump and disfigured face make him look barely human, but his ability to shift his face into other people’s faces makes him more than a demon; it makes him useful. So Mr Socrates adopts the boy and brings him to England, raises him to be the perfect agent. And when Modo is old enough, he is thrown into the streets of London, alone, with a mission to stop the greatest threat the British Empire has ever seen.

This book was super readable (or in my case listenable). It’s fun, fast paced and the characters are great. Modo is a sympathetic character, who makes mistakes and recovers from them as best he can, who is loyal (possibly too loyal) and struggling with his first crush. In a super cute way. He gets home sick, he gets sad, he gets tired just like most people. His supporting characters are great. Olivia is a strong willed, wonderful young woman, who also makes mistakes out of compassion. Tharpa, Modo’s martial arts teacher, despite some troubling colonial undercurrents, is a great mentor figure, even as he doesn’t quite belong in with English world of London any more than Modo does. Mr Socrates is a semi-father figure, who is both distant and cold and genuinely fond of Modo. I guess just a regular Englishman, or at least the stereotype of one. And I love them all.

The bad guys were evil (and also kind of scary). The plot was clever and twisting and very driven. But the really interesting thing, for a nerd like me anyway, is Modo himself. He is marked as different because of his disfigured body and I think it’s important. Slade does a good job of weaving Modo’s awareness of his face into the story, a constant reminder of his own self loathing and, no matter what he’s doing and how happy he is, he can’t quite separate himself from his face. And this is important I think, particularly because there are kids who have to live in a reality where they feel like they’re someone other than they appear to be, but they can’t detach from their own physical selves, even when it’s painful. That matters.

There are a bunch of them out there, so I’m looking forward to that, you know, whenever that happens.

Last movie I watched:

I have no idea. Maybe Mockingjay Part 1. Wasn’t that good.

Last TV episode I watched:

How I Met Your Mother. And now I know.

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