ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book was so unexpectedly beautiful. This is the best middle grade I’ve read since Harry Potter. Plus, this is beyond perfect for the Autumn and Halloween season. The prose is so lyrical, the characters are so heartwarming, and the messages are so important. I recommend The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding with my whole heart.
This is a story about a young boy named Prosper who has grown up never feeling like he has fit in. His twin sister is the only person he feels understands him, while she is also battling a very scary heart condition. Prosper has always felt like the odd one out, especially since his family is very rich, very successful, and very powerful. But then it becomes very apparent why his ancestors were so lucky.
“We came from a family of winners, record-setters, and firsts, and there wasn’t a day that went by that our grandmother let me forget that I wasn’t one of them.”
In this world, there are four dimensions, and keeping them balanced is very important:
➽Human World – where we live.
➽The Fiend World – where evil humans who make deals serve for eternity.
➽The World of Ghosts/Specters – where evil humans’ spirits go when they die.
➽The Realm of Ancients – where the creatures that created magic live.
There are many different types of fiends, but only malefactors are supposed to make deals with humans. And Prosper’s ancestors made a deal with a demon named Alastor, so that they could beat a rival family and become the powerful and reputable family they are today. And that demon is currently inside of Prosper. Prosper is then forced to flee to Salem, Massachusetts, where he is introduced to a whole other family and he gets to see what it’s like to start over and become the person he wants to be. I mean, while also struggling with a demon who is constantly trying to take over his body.
Salem, demons, witches, hobgoblins, elves, ogres, magical familiars, old books and libraries, falling leaves, The Crucible, pumpkins, cafes… I mean, we are thrown into the perfect Halloween setting, with some of the most beautiful autumnal writing I’ve ever read. This is truly the perfect Halloween novel, and it’s perfect for all ages.
“Over eight hundred years old and trapped in the body of a boy who couldn’t tell the simple difference between a tharborough and a theorick! The Fates were so unkind.”
And it was so very funny! I was constantly laughing out loud. I mean, it makes it rather hard to hate Alastor when he is making you laugh constantly. His inner monologues with Prosper are nothing short of genius, and Alastor discovering how much the human world has changed over many centuries was literary perfection. This is the first thing I’ve ever read from Alexandra Bracken, but now I want to buy her entire works.
And the messages that Alexandra Bracken discussed in this were so important, too! Prosper, Alastor, and Nell (Prosper’s new found cousin), all are constantly learning that it is never too late to start over and become the person you want to be. Everyone is deserving of a fresh start and we shouldn’t have to be our parent’s mistakes. And hold grudges, that just keeps hate in your heart, isn’t worth anything.
“Maybe it was true that we never really escape our histories. That revenge is a poison that stays in the hearts of families, reborn with each generation.”
This book also carries a super amazing message about how important it is to have art programs in school. This story heavily talks about different arts, whether it be painting, drawing, or theater, and how young kids truly have a beautiful outlet in art and how it can shape who they are as people. There was also an important discussion on Nell, a young girl, wanting to play the role of John Proctor, the main male protagonist in The Crucible, and how there wasn’t any reason why she shouldn’t be able to audition for the role.
Also, Nell’s mother was a lesbian witch in this story and if that alone doesn’t sell you on this book I’m not sure what will. But in all seriousness, we need more middle grade books that normalize LGBT+ families. I loved this aspect of the story, and even though I wish it could have been a little different, but I was still absolutely delighted at this minor plot point. Also, Nell is such an amazingly adorable little witch in general, and she has some pretty awesome creatures looking after her.
I will warn you guys that this book has a very abrupt cliffhanger that will make you ready to make a deal with a demon for the next book. But this didn’t make me from loving this book any less.
I loved this entire book with my whole heart. There is no doubt that this is going on my best of 2017 list at the end of the year. I normally don’t even like middle grade novels that much, and I will admit that this one leans towards older middle grade, but I was completely captivated and enthralled with this the whole entire time. This is an absolute must read for the fall season, and if you’re looking for an autumnal read then look no further than this perfection.
“Being different, being simply you instead of what other people wanted you to be, was its own kind of bravery.”
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.