>The Hollow Bettle by Susannah Appelbaum
There’s little joy left in the kingdom of Caux: the evil King Nightshade rules with terrible tyranny and the law of the land is poison or be poisoned. Worse, eleven-year-old Ivy’s uncle, a famous healer, has disappeared, and Ivy sets out to find him, joined by a young taster named Rowan. But these are corrupt times, and the children—enemies of the realm—are not alone. What exactly do Ivy and Rowan’s pursuers want? Is it Ivy’s prized red bettle, which, unlike any other gemstone in Caux, appears—impossibly—to be hollow? Is it the elixir she concocted—the one with the mysterious healing powers? Or could it be Ivy herself? (from Amazon.ca)
What I really liked was the world building. The journey Rowan and Ivy go through was well described and their encounters with different characters was well done. I loved the different settings and their adventure seemed to get even more exciting as the book was nearing to a close. How the setting came about, and the introduction to this story was well done. I liked how the setting was established, with a nice concise history on how King Nightshade came about. It’s almost told in a fairy tale narrative – which was well done, and there were plenty of witty phrases to enjoy (all throughout the novel as well). The idea of the bettles are interesting, but what I really liked was that the use of poison was all over the place in this land. It was different and I thought it was rather clever, definitely something you don’t see in a lot of fantasy middle grade fiction out there.
The characters in this book were also well done. Ivy and Rowan do make an interesting team. The plot was good, although a little slow moving at first. However once Ivy and Rowan teamed up on their journey, it got more interesting thanks to the different settings described, and the various memorable characters they encounter on their journey (Poppy really stood out! I thought it was cute).
The idea of this book is a creative one. It’s told with a nice whimsical flair to it, but it took a while to get used to this style of writing. I’m not sure why, but the pace seemed slower and with the writing style (perhaps it was a little too whimsical) the book just seemed to go at a snail’s pace. That being said though, I still thought it was an enjoyable book and it does pick up the pace after a third of the story. I’ll probably continue this series, I’d like to know what happens next, yet I’m not really in a rush to read it. I’d say take it or leave it with this book.