The Luck Uglies (Luck Uglies, book one)
By Paul Durham
Published 2014 by HarperCollins
Even though everyone says they're extinct, Rye is pretty sure there's a Bog Noblin lurking around her village. When Rye's suspicions are proven correct, the town of Drowning is in upheaval. To make matters worse, the stuffy Earl Longchance refuses to do anything about it. Will the supposedly villainous and terribly secret Luck Uglies return to save the village? Or will Rye have to do it herself?
It's our winner!
Much like The Castle Behind Thorns, this was a book I had an e-galley of prior to its release. And, again, I read about half the book before my copy expired. Unlike The Castle Behind Thorns, though, this one I was eager to get back to, but couldn't find the time or justification to do so last year. I was thrilled to see it named a finalist in my category of the Cybils and couldn't wait to finish the story. (Of course, I started over from the beginning to make sure it got a fair shake.)
I really loved this one. In fact, it reminded me a lot of last year's Cybils winner, The Screaming Staircase. It's got action, danger, humor, great worldbuilding, and fun characters. I'm not sure it's quite up to the same level, but in terms of sheer enjoyment, it's pretty darn close.
I fell in love with this book right from the beginning - the characters are completely charming, the story is exciting, and it's just so much fun. I loved Rye and seeing her relationship with her family and I loved her friends as well. I did keep waiting for something dark or deep to be revealed regarding Quinn, which never really happened, so I feel like there was a bit of unfulfilled foreshadowing with his character (perhaps to come in a future book?). I appreciated Rye's pigheadedness - it felt extremely realistic, though as an adult, her decisions frequently made me cringe. I loved that she doesn't understand why she blushes around one of her best friend's brothers - it's so innocent and sweet. I absolutely adored Folly and her love of science and experimentation.
I thought the worldbuilding was nicely done as well. I was charmed by the village of Drowning and eager to know more of its history and residents. I loved the random bits of information we learn throughout the book (like about Nanny Crabtree's apples and her understanding with Lottie). I'm eager to find out even more about the Luck Uglies - they were just tantalizingly present in this volume, so I can't wait for the next one.
I appreciate that there is some dark stuff in here as well - Longchance is really not a nice guy and the scene where he threatens some rioters is pretty disturbing. Additionally, the inclusion of the link rats is a good one - I don't think many kids really think about stuff like this happening in what's otherwise a nice and normal place, but it certainly did and does and I don't think they need to be kept in the dark.
Though this is the first book in a series, the story in this volume is pretty well wrapped up, which I certainly appreciated. Of course, I enjoyed this one so much that I'll be anxious to get my hands on volume two. I highly recommend this for young fantasy fans!