Middle Grade Reviews

Review: King Bones by Chris Hallatt Wells

Untitled design - copykingbones

Extract:

Danny felt a solid wall behind him. He turned and through the murk he saw the outline of a mighty door carved from solid stone.

Danny felt the creature’s breath on his exposed neck. He felt their terrible hands reaching towards him. The door was his only escape. Although he knew the stone door was far too heavy for a boy to open by himself, Danny pushed it anyway. 

At his first touch, the stone door swung inwards, silently, on oiled hinges.

‘Welcome Danny Bouygues,’ boomed a voice. ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

It was the king. birdSynopsis:

The crown jewels have been stolen.

When Danny’s parents are arrested for the theft, he is sent to stay with Aunty Ratbag. Infamous in Danny’s family for hating children, life with Aunty Ratbag is a series of rules and punishments. Even worse is Greezy Academy. Everyone in Greezy is terrible, except for that new girl, and the local gravedigger.

Then the gravedigger introduces him to King Bones, undead Anglo-Saxon King. King Bones and his warriors want to rescue their wives, who were buried in a different place. So begins Danny’s mission, which leads to friendship and a life of theft.birdReview:

King Bones is an adventure which appeals to children’s sense of macabre. It’s humour which will appeal to fans of Gareth P Jones and Chris Priestly.

You’ve got to pity Danny. The first half of the story sets you up to root for him, as he endures the imprisonment of his parents, life with Aunty Ratbag, and the torture which counts for education in the town of Greezy. The school reminds me of Dahl’s Matilda, without Miss Honey. Danny and new girl Audrey stand out as the only people who find their situation strange. I liked the contrast between their home lives. Where Danny is with the frankly abusive Aunty Ratbag, Audrey’s home is palatial. I’m glad Danny had issues over this. It wouldn’t have felt realistic if he’d not begrudged Audrey her luck.

It’s fun to see a story about a child who becomes a master thief which isn’t apologetic for the fact. It’s not a new thing – Oliver Twist has endured for centuries – but I suppose given the natural shape of a story, it is usual for a protagonist to develop beyond their thieving ways. Not so here, and I’m glad. Danny and Audrey are good characters, good people, who have an adventure. Most children understand the boundary between life and fiction. Theft can be fun in fiction.

There is also some great historical content, which will go down well with teachers covering the Anglo-Saxon period. Personally, I enjoyed the story more once King Bones came along, and would have liked him to be introduced earlier, but I’m sure the Dahlesque school will go down as well with other readers. Hallatt Wells certainly doesn’t hold back on toilet humour, or the grotty and grim.

 

Thanks to Mikka at Everything With Words for sending a copy in exchange for honest review.

 

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