Review: The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone

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The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby
Published by Allen & Unwin on 1 November 2017
Pages: 496
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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I was ten years old when my parents were killed by pirates. This did not bother me as much as you might think – I hardly knew my parents.

Bronte Mettlestone’s parents ran away to have adventures when she was a baby, leaving her to be raised by her Aunt Isabelle and the Butler. She’s had a perfectly pleasant childhood of afternoon teas and riding lessons – and no adventures, thank you very much.

But Bronte’s parents have left extremely detailed (and bossy) instructions for Bronte in their will. The instructions must be followed to the letter, or disaster will befall Bronte’s home. She is to travel the kingdoms and empires, perfectly alone, delivering special gifts to her ten other aunts. There is a farmer aunt who owns an orange orchard and a veterinarian aunt who specialises in dragon care, a pair of aunts who captain a cruise ship together and a former rockstar aunt who is now the reigning monarch of a small kingdom.

Now, armed with only her parents’ instructions, a chest full of strange gifts and her own strong will, Bronte must journey forth to face dragons, Chief Detectives and pirates – and the gathering suspicion that there might be something more to her extremely inconvenient quest than meets the eye…

Jaclyn Moriarty is easily one of the most talented writers to come out of Australia. Regardless of what genre she’s writing in, she always seems to produce something magical and completely original (although I must admit, the whimsical tone to her writing feels better suited to fantasy). The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone is her first offering for younger readers (9-12 year olds), and Moriarty knocks it out of the park.

This may have been a fantasy novel, but it really felt like an exploration of family dynamics. Every time Bronte visits an aunt, she learns something new about her parents and the importance of family. As always, Moriarty’s characters are vividly drawn. All of the aunts have their own distinct mannerisms and characteristics, but they still feel like they are part of the same family. I liked that a point was made that Bronte had never met a lot of her aunts, or had only seen them a handful of times. In so many books, characters seem to come from big families that live on top of one another; the Mettlestones are not close, but they still care for one another in their own ways. It felt more realistic to me, and I really enjoyed this dynamic, especially as it played a big role in the ending. My favourite relationship was Bronte and Aunt Carrie, but honestly, all of the aunts were interesting and jumped off the page.

There were a lot of twists that, as a reader outside the target demographic, I could see coming; I imagine that a younger reader would be surprised and really enjoy them. The book was well-written and easy-to-follow, and the chapters were short enough that it would still be engaging for a younger reader who struggles with reading. The illustrations by Kelly Canby are the perfect accompaniment to the story. Canby’s drawings have the same whimsical tone that Moriarty’s writing has and kind of make you feel like you’re reading a fairy tale.

This book is the perfect book for young readers of fantasy (and older ones, too!), and can be read independently or together. The visits to the the aunts unfold within a larger narrative, so I think that it would make the perfect book to read in multiple sittings with your child before bed. That said, I read it in one sitting and really enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun piecing together all the clues, and ultimately found it an addictive and fun read. If your child is not quite ready for Harry Potter, this book would be the perfect story to introduce them to the fantasy genre.

★★★★☆

Review: A Tangle of Gold

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A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty
Published by Pan Macmillan on the 1st March 2016
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback | Purchased
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The Kingdom of Cello is in crisis. Princess Ko’s deception has been revealed and the Elite have taken control, placing the Princess, Samuel and Sergio under arrest and ordering their execution. Elliot is being held captive by the Hostiles and Colour storms are raging through the land. The Cello Wind has been silent for months.Plans are in place to bring the remaining Royals home from the World but then all communication between Cello and the World will cease. That means Madeleine will lose Elliot, forever. Madeleine and Elliot must solve the mystery of Cello before it is too late.

I originally finished this book last night (this book is the fastest read I’ve had all year, which is surprising, given that it’s also the thickest book I’ve read all year), and was going to wait a few days before posting a review. We were given so much information that I felt that I needed a couple of days to digest it all, but I’m so excited to talk about this book that a review is going up today, folks!

I’ve been a Moriarty fan since I was about ten, so it’s incredibly hard to sit down and write a review that doesn’t make me sound like a crazy fan. When reading, it was hard to separate what was good about the book from the fact that this was a book that I have been waiting for for a very long time. I think I can objectively say that The Colours of Madeleine has been a trilogy that just keeps getting better – every book, Moriarty ups her game. She presents information to her readers, but doesn’t spell it our for them. It was fascinating to watch her weave together bits of information given out in the earlier books, and it was thrilling as a reader to have that big reveal.

A Tangle of Gold was not only one of my most anticipated books for 2016, but one of my most anticipated books period. It was up there with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Quintana of Charyn in terms of how excited I was. Very rarely do books live up to (high) expectations, but I’m pleased to say that A Tangle of Gold was pretty much everything I was hoping for, and then some. Moriarty took plot twists to a whole new level.

This book saw the introduction of a new voice, so to speak – while written in third person, it flipped between Elliot’s and Madeleine’s perspectives. This time we also had Keira’s perspective, and her voice is distinctive and completely different from Madeleine’s or Elliot’s. While surprising – I have to admit I did initially find it a little odd that we had a third perspective – I felt that it added so much more to the story, and I loved getting to know a character that I’d previously dismissed because I didn’t think that she’d stick around.

Honestly, I’m finding it difficult to criticise this book – it’s been tightly plotted and well-written, the characters are well-drawn and distinctive. If I was pressed, I would say that some readers may find it overly complex and left feeling a little overwhelmed – you do get plot twist after plot twist after plot twist, and at one point I was thinking, “what other secrets has this series been hiding?” I really did find this book to be fantastic though, and I don’t want to spoil others by talking about it too much. I will say this: connections will be revealed, betrayals found out, and the political intrigue thickens. Also, the secret to immortality! … kind of.

This series has been ridiculously ambitious and amazingly original, and cemented Jaclyn Moriarty as one of the greats in Australian literature. I already want to return to Cello, and if that is not a sign of a good series, I don’t know what is. If you haven’t read it yet, move it up on your TBR list – you won’t regret it.

★★★★★

Please note: this review originally appeared on my blog, What Kim Read Next. It has been reformatted and edited.