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In this extraordinary debut novel with its deft nod to Dickensian heroes and rogues, Mira Bartok tells the story of Arthur, a shy, fox-like foundling with only one ear and a desperate desire to belong, as he seeks his destiny.
Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name - a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck - it is the only home he has ever known. But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name - Arthur, like the good king in the old stories - and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Full of hope and heart, The Wonderling is one of those stories that feels as familiar - yet unique - as a friend. A triumphant debut. * Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of Girl of Ink and Stars * "[...] a richly imaging fantasy adventure." * The Bookseller * The Dickensian atmosphere of the orphanage he eventually escapes from is cut with the magical whimsy of Bartok's strange universe: its fantastic creatures, secret hideaways and the characters' extraordinary gifts. Bartok relishes in descriptive minutiae, which she complements with delightful pencil sketches that give a tantalising glimpse of what the inevitable film adaptation will look like. s * The Irish Times * There's a steampunk style to this quirky and remarkable novel [...] Bartok's world has the feel of Dickens, with added fur and feathers, but also wonderful and whimsical illustrations to bring it alive. * The Herald * Sparkling with the wit and wonder of a children's classic, this exuberant quest-driven debut is a treat for readers of ten and over. [...] Special mention must be made of the book's physical gloriousness. It's a satisfyingly weighty tome, with evocatively intricate illustrations by the author. This is truly a book to treasure [...] * Joanne Owen, LoveReading Debut of the Month * "Momentum builds toward a thrilling crescendo and, rarest of all, a wholly satisfying ending that still whets the appetite for a sequel." * NY Times * "For slightly older readers, Mira Bartok's The Wonderling centres on Arthur, a foxlike foundling at The Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. Full of Dickensian villains and Gothic mystery, it's an ambitious and richly atmospheric fantasy debut." * The Daily Telegraph * "The Wonderling is an extremely impressive debut novel. [...]many readers will become so immersed they won't want it to end. Mira Bartok has created a richly inventive fantasy world, with great characters and appealing steampunk elements. Her use of language is wonderful, her vocabulary particularly striking." * The School Librarian * "a Dickensian dystopia" * The Observer * "Richly detailed storytelling and a sense of enchantment echo through the story" * The Bookseller *