Walpole’s Otranto meets 21st century children’s writing.
Publication date: 24th November 2015
Publisher: Quirk Books
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio and Will Staehle is a children’s novel about a young boy trying to run his family’s ancestral hotel.
Picking up friends along the way, 12-year-old Warren sets out to find the legendary All-Seeing Eye, an apparent heirloom of the long line of hoteliers. By solving riddles, avoiding his witch of an aunt, and risking his life for others, he manages to unlock the secret of his legacy – all whilst keeping the unexpected influx of guests happy!
The novel is enjoyable, fast-paced and, most importantly, a true homage to the Gothic, aimed at a middle-grade audience. The constant oscillation between fear and relief, the unexplained and the clarified would have made Ann Radcliffe proud; the frequent buffoonery and comedic slant perhaps more T. L. Peacock. An admirable foray into traditional Gothic, without falling into the trap of become a caricature of one’s own attempt.
A highlight for adults might have to be what can only be termed a cameo appearance by a certain Captain Grayishwhiteishbeard. His dialogue is witty and self-aware, and his place in the novel very much encapsulates Warren’s childish dream of adult freedom, versus the reality of the ineffectiveness and even maliciousness of the adults he is surrounded by.
The illustrations and atmosphere are highly Burton-esque and, with a couple of confusing exceptions early on in the work, incredibly well-fitted to the narrative. Especially inventive is the occasional emphasis attributed to the dialogue by pulling sentences out of the text and giving them a silent movie style flashcard pedestal. Staehle’s artwork is certainly the centrepiece of the novel, and a major part in the successful attractiveness in this lively work.
I would recommend this novel to children with a dark streak and an inquisitive nature, and adults with a penchant for the ghostly and an interest in word-picture collaboration.