Gargantis

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Malamander. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Gargantis was written by Thomas Taylor and first published in 2020. It forms the second part of The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea series, detailing the continuing adventures of Herbert Lemon in his occupation as the town’s “Lost-and-Founder”. As the novel continues on from shortly after Malamander (2019) left off, I would really recommend reading them in sequence in order to fully appreciate them.

A fierce storm has gripped Eerie-on-Sea and the local fishermen seem to be worried. Their oldest legends tell tale of tempests whipped up by a colossal beast called the Gargantis – one that will surely destroy all of Eerie-on-Sea if it wakes. Yet Herbert Lemon has more to worry about than the weather. A hooded stranger has arrived at the Nautilus Hotel and has left an odd clockwork shell in his possession. Now it is up to him to discover who the device belongs to.

With the help of his best friend – Violet Parma – Herbert sets off to try and solve this new mystery. However, their investigation is cut short as a mysterious bottle washes up on the shore. The bottle contains a strange glowing light and everyone in town seems to think that it should belong to them. It’s Herbert’s job as the Lost-and-Founder to determine who does truly deserve to keep this bizarre find.

As Herbert and Violet continue their investigation, they soon learn that the storm, the hooded figure and the bottle are all connected in strange and unexpected ways. The truth behind the storm lies hidden in the history of Eerie-on-Sea. But can Herbert uncover it before the entire town slips into the sea?

If you followed my blog last year during my Summer of Middle Grade event, you might recall that I was very taken by Malamander. The novel was fast paced, funny and had a fantastically memorable cast. I’m pleased to say that Gargantis was every bit as strong as the first novel. The tone of the series still reminds me most Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Although The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea is a lot less dark than Snicket’s magnum opus, it contains the same kind of clever wordplay and oddly Gothic setting.

The small town of Eerie-on-Sea will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever visited an English seaside resort. Like these towns, it seems to be permanently stuck in the 1930s. It contains the familiar bric-a-brac shops, grand Victorian hotels and superstitious fishermen, but adds a splash of the uncanny. This is a world where magic is just kind of accepted. A mechanical mermonkey distributes books rather than fortunes. The sea is full of monsters. The lost and found station at a hotel is a prestigious post that operates more like a detective agency. The result is a creative setting that is sure to capture the interest of any young reader.

The plot of Gargantis is a lot faster to find its feet than Malamander, with Herbert instantly encountering a hooded stranger and realising that there is something odd about the terrible electrical storm raging over the town. As with Malamander, the plot from here quickly turns into a mystery story as Herbert and Violet come into possession of an ancient bottle and discover its surprising connection with Eerie-on-Sea’s past.

While Gargantis isn’t quite as sad as Malamander, it still holds an important message for young readers. The moral of the tale this time is regarding the importance of an inquisitive mind. During their journey, Herbert and Violet repeatedly question the beliefs of the superstitious locals, who prove that they will even go as far as hurting children if their legends seem to require it. Through this, Herbert gradually learns that he also needs to address his own superstitious beliefs about the sea if he ever wants to uncover the truth of his origins. While we don’t discover much more about where Herbert came from in Gargantis, it does certainly pave the way towards this being the focus of the third book.

The ending of Gargantis is even grander in scale than that of its prequel, leading to a thrilling climax on the high seas and a dramatic showdown with both the mysterious Deep Hood and a colossal sea monster. While this novel does still leave a lot of threads hanging for its inevitable sequel, it at least wraps up the mystery of the Gargantis and reveals some fascinating details concerning the founding of Eerie-on-Sea.

In terms of characterisation, Gargantis is also incredibly strong. Herbert gets a lot of development over the course of the tale as he is forced to face his fears of both the sea and his past, giving him the hope that he needs to be able to begin the search for his family. Violet does not receive quite so much development this time around, but her confidence makes a wonderful complement to Herbert’s caution. Violet does also learn that it is possible to be too rash. While she makes fun of Herbert’s fears, sometimes her tendency to act without thinking causes just as much trouble.

Beyond Herbert and Violet, the series also still has a wonderfully colourful cast. These range from Madam Kraken, the ancient and mysterious hotel owner, to the eccentric Mrs Fossil who runs the Flotsamporium – the local bric-a-brac shop. Every member of the supporting cast is fantastically memorable and certain to delight young readers. As with Snicket’s books, it’s amazing how self-serving the adults in Herbert’s world can be – and just how quick they are to turn on children! However, this only serves to make them more interesting, and make it all the more satisfying when Herbert and Violet prove to the be only ones able to crack an ancient code and save the day!

Apologies for the short review, but I don’t think that there is much more to say. All in all, I am still in love with this series and think that Gargantis is every bit as strong as Malamander. I really can’t wait to see where this series will head next and I would definitely recommend it to all young readers!

Gargantis can be purchased as a Paperback & eBook from Amazon.co.uk

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