October 22, 2017

Macky Reads Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath

Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath book cover
If I were to provide a synopsis for this book, this is what I would say: in which a young, whip smart girl discovers the hidden magical underground world of London after a do-it-yourself plumbing attempt on her bathroom sink goes awry.

I want to start by saying that I love so many parts of this book. The lore is so rich, and I absolutely adore when authors are able to take actual history (which I am notoriously bored by) and weave some magical, out of this world layer into and through it. (Fun fact: Jacob Sager Weinstein has author’s notes that open with him saying he “made up much less of the book than [we] might think”.) 

Moreover, I love the dry humor and whimsy of this book. From very interesting British postal workers, to snarky dialogue, to a giant boar named Oaraboaros… who (are you ready for the best part and spoilery bit) communicates via printed cards. Yes, that’s right. Because pigs can’t talk, duh! (I will love that giant porcine gentle-creature ‘til the day I die.)

But even with such a rich world and an equally sparkly writing tone, something just did not work for me personally.  I mean, I’m invested. But to me, the pacing of the middle of the book and the tertiary characters just didn’t quite land on the green. Maybe it’s my aversion to “whimsical urban London characters” like the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins or everyone in Fagin’s gang from Oliver Twist. And since a very large part of this book occurs underneath London with said characters, I believe I sadly tuned out for a lot of it. It also doesn’t help that the big reveal about how our Hyacinth is connected to all of this wasn’t as solid as I would have liked it to be (albeit clearly explained).

So where does this leave me? At this point, I’m on the lookout for book two (should there be one) just to see if the author has reserved the deeper exposition of how our reluctant, but super fun heroine is connected to all the magical secrets of London for the rest of the series. I just gotta know! 

Anyway, if you like strong female leads in middle grade settings, giant, sentient well-mannered boars and gritty but whimsical urban characters don’t throw you off, go grab a copy for yourself and see what the real fuss is about all the underground rivers of London. Hyacinth will lead the way.

Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath by Jacob Sager Weinstein
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | Publication Date: May 23, 2017
Source: ARC received from the publisher (Thank you!)


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