Haarville is a seaside town like no other. It is misty, murky, and almost completely cut-off from the outside world. While the unappetising menu (limpet buns, anyone?) and cast of undesirable locals might be off-putting for some, for orphan Manx Fearty, it is home.
Despite a lack of contact with the outside world, Haarville functions thanks to a collection of ‘perpetual devices’ powered by magical Amberose. Manx and his flamboyant guardian Father G keep everything working from their repair shop home – until two sinister newcomers arrive, evicting Manx and claiming everything he holds dear.
We were completely transported to Manx’s delightfully dingy frontier-town world and captivated by its characters, from repair expert/drag queen Father G, to Tina the feisty librarian, Sheila the one-armed fisherwoman and (now one of our favourite-ever animal sidekicks) Olu the Oystercatcher.
It is a treat to find a book that blends fantasy and humour so smoothly, and Haarville had us giggling at quirky names and slapstick moments even as we shuddered at Manx’s plight and puzzled over a tantalising trail of clues. While that permeating scent of something fishy going on has echoes of The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy, by Richard Pickard, the action in Haarville takes us to somewhere completely fresh.
From the terrifying Razor Reef, to the grimy kitchen of the Lange Fluke Inn, Manx is never far from gripping disaster, so it’s only when all the pieces of this story come together that you appreciate how cleverly they fit. Alongside the escapades, this is a story with a powerful message about greed and how precious, and fragile, our resources are. It is surfing the 9th wave right to the top of our ‘best reads of 2023’ list.