Tuesday, September 03, 2013

The Bogler's Girl: How to Catch A Bogle by Catherine Jinks

Alfred stood to the left of the fireplace, his salt in one hand, his staff in another. He didn't speak to Birdie, who took up her usual position inside his magic circle. Though she'd turned her back on him the little mirror she was holding gave her a clear view of everything behind her: Alfred, the fireplace, the gap in the ring of salt.

She had to take only one step--across the white ring on the floor--and she would be safe. But she could not do it yet. Not until they'd lured their quarry out of its hiding place. Not until they'd baited their trap.

Suddenly Alred gave a nod. It was her cue. The blood was thundering in her ears. When she began to sing, however, her voice was clear and calm.

Birdie is the Bogler's Girl--and proud of it. Life for an orphan in nineteenth-century London is hard. Working for pennies as a mudlark digging for valuables in the stinking muck on the shores of the Thames, rat-catching in the sewers, or being a beggar or cutpurse for some wicked master to stay out of the workhouse, all promise a hard life, and a short one, and our Birdie knows she has it good.

Bogling is honest work, and she is proud to be the one and only 'prentice to Alfred Bunce, the best in the business, and her clear, sweet voice and childlike prettiness make her perfect bogle bait. Alfred has steady work; when servant children go missing near a well or fireplace or sewer opening, people are glad to pay six shillings a bogle and expenses to have Alfred kill the child-devouring beast with his shower of salt and his lance. And when the bogle is drawn out of his lair, Birdie has the nerve and quickness to stay alive in her job.

Slowly, silently, something dim and dense surged out of the chimney and onto the hearth, in a cloud of soot that blurred its hulking silhouette. It had eyes as red as rubies and black scales like chips of slate. Birdie even caught a glimpse of arms unfolding.... Then Alfred sprang his trap.

He lunged forward. Birdie did the same.

Alfred and Birdie's fame reaches the ears of Miss Eames, a wealthy folklorist of a certain age who fancies the chance to witness the bogles recounted in her ancient texts in action. Alfred reluctantly agrees to take her along on his next job, a case in which a couple of thieving boys, under the management of the wicked Sarah Pickles, have disappeared during a heist in a doctor's house. What the boglers and Miss Eames find inside Dr. Morton's sinister house reveals that he is himself a necromancer, one who claims dominance over bogles and other dark forces, and when Birdie and Alfred are tricked into doing a bogling job inside a graveyard, they are astonished to find themselves captured, chloroformed, bound, and left inside a tomb-like chapel, under the power of the evil Dr. Morton. Can Birdie's quick mind and steady nerves save them from a fate perhaps worse than a bogle?

Catherine Jink's forthcoming How to Catch a Bogle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)  is a rammer-jammer of a page-turning tale, loaded with deliciously dark Victorian-era ambiance, and with a delightfully feisty young heroine who survives by wit and courage and a lot of street savvy. Jinks, the top-selling author of the picaresque Evil Genius books, is the magical mistress of a sort of supernatural adventure solidly rooted in a realistic setting, and the world she creates for the talented Birdie McGraw promises much fantastical adventure for her character in a planned trilogy in which Birdie may have to choose whether to become a revered bogler or a lark-voiced star of the musical stage. With a cast of colorful and sometimes shady characters that even Dickens would have envied, these are books that should become classics of their genre. I can hardly wait for the next one!

With raves and starred reviews all around from the critics, this book should not be missed by middle readers who fancy a few scares and a lot of humor. ""This is top-notch storytelling from Jinks, full of wit, a colorful cast of rogues, and delectable slang," says Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus concurs, adding "... high style, offering a period melodrama replete with colorful characters, narrow squeaks and explosions of ectoplasmic goo."  Goo, glorious goo, and a glossary of London slang, too. What more could a fantasy fan want?

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