by Anna Campbell
OK, the hero of ONDINE: THE SUMMER OF SHAMBLES is a Scottish laird (including thick brogue, och aye) who has been transformed into a ferret because he dissed a witch at a debutante ball.
Do I really need to say more? Surely that sells you!
This is Aussie Ebony McKenna's debut young adult novel and it's a hoot from beginning to end! FERRET-astic, in fact!
If you think a ferret called Shambles who is really Hamish McPhee, the seriously hot Laird of Glen Logan, sounds a little crazy but strangely compelling, then read on. There's more to come!
One of the many fun elements of this book is that basically, for all its archaic touches and fairytale magic, it's a contemporary story. The book opens with Ondine in summer camp (where she meets the shambolic Shambles!) and one of the major events takes place at the official opening of a railway overpass. Ondine de Groot, our heroine, is fifteen and she lives with her parents and two older sisters Marguerite and Cybelle at the Station Hotel in Venzelemma, the capital of a small eastern European nation Brugel. Through one madcap summer, Ondine will be romanced by two gorgeous men, discover that her sisters are indulging in secret romances of their own, foil a wicked plot, discover her nascent psychic powers and fall in love.
During the course of this story which involves magic, intrigue, romance, Ondine, Shambles, the de Groot family, the Duke of Brugel, his seriously slimy son Lord Vincent, and assorted other eccentric characters including the witch who turned Hamish into a ferret because he was acting like a weasel, we learn a lot about Brugel. A hugely fun part of this book is the copious footnotes. Here are a couple to give you an idea of the dry humor:
Plütz is Brugel's number one alcoholic export. It is made from fermented peaches, is 32 per cent proof and is the main ingredient in divorce proceedings.
Definition of Oose: Mighty big clumbs of dust that gang up into fluff monsters. The original of this phrase is impossible to verify, much like a Freemason's secret handshake. For more information on Freemasonry, follow the adventures of Pierre in Tolstoy's WAR AND PEACE. Or check out FREEMASONRY FOR DUMMIES.
There are running jokes on dietary habits, table manners, Scottish dialect and the Eurovision Song Contest (where Brugel always votes for Slovakia even when Slovakia hasn't entered). And sausages - Hamish likes to eat!
I loved this book. It has the sort of inspired silliness that you get in MONTY PYTHON while still telling a touching story about a girl in love with her ferret. Well, her ferret once he's in human guise. Shambles is a marvelous hero. Protective and brave and sweet and smart and very funny - and in the short intervals when he transforms into a human, he's definitely easy on the eye. Ondine is a lovely heroine, loyal and full of heart and optimism.
ONDINE: THE SUMMER OF SHAMBLES is utterly charming. I'm really looking forward to the sequel ONDINE: THE AUTUMN PALACE which is out in March next year. Until then I shall FRET for the FERRET!!!!
You can buy ONDINE at Amazon and the Book Depository (post free anywhere in the world). I dare you not to be smiling when you put it down after the last page!