Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
By Tania del Rio
Illustrated by Will Staehle
Hardcover, 216 pages
2015, Quirk Books
Expected Publication Date: November 24
I received this book for free from Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Warren lives in a hotel that his family has run for generations. After the death of his parents, Warren’s lazy Uncle Rupert and mean-spirited Aunt Anaconda take over the hotel and under their neglectful eyes the hotel soon loses all business. But when a mysterious guest suddenly arrives, Warren finds himself in the middle of a battle for control over the hotel against his Aunt, who is searching for a powerful magical item that would grant her ownership over the hotel, despite Warren being the heir.
First off, let me say this will be a review, Judging Book combo, because the illustrations in this book are divine!
I initially received this as an e-book through NetGalley. Sadly, I couldn’t view it properly on my Nook or Kindle and had to read it on my computer. Even then, I think there was something wrong with my file, because most of the illustrations seemed to be corrupted. Either that, or because it was an ARC, they didn’t put the finishing touches on. But the colors looked warped, some of the images were pixelated, and a few looked normal. It really affected my experience, because half the magic of this book comes from Staehle’s fantastic artwork!
Luckily, Quirk sent me a copy and boy, the finished product really makes a difference. So I gave the book a re-read. My initial thoughts on the story itself are much the same:
This is a semi-gothic, middle-grade fantasy adventure with an atypical main character. Little Warren’s odd looks are refreshingly different, and his positive attitude, pride in his family hotel and the hard work he puts into maintaining it send a great message to young readers.
The adults in the book are fairly standard however – the lazy, clueless Uncle, the abusive, two-faced aunt, and two kindly hotel workers who care for Warren whenever they aren’t cowering away from his aunt. As an adult reader, I think the characters could use a bit more depth, but for younger readers they make fine players in Warren’s story.
The plot of the book moves very fast. I think there were a few too many elements crammed into just over 200 pages and it left some of the larger twists feeling less impactful. Different plot points were over and done with before you really get to explore or absorb them. At times, I found myself feeling a little lost or overwhelmed. I think the plot could use a bit more focus, or the book a slightly larger page count. But there are magical and even semi-steampunk elements that I enjoyed and Warren’s character really piloted the book.
There’s going to be a sequel and I’m definitely interested. Between the plot and the images, the book has a very Tim Burton meets Lemony Snicket feel that I loved. I think this is an excellent choice for younger readers who aren’t quite ready for a lengthier chapter book, or for eager listeners who will appreciate the unique art style.
Now, let me focus on that art style. In short – wow! Seriously, having a physical copy of this book makes all the difference. I can finally appreciate all the images and typography and special touches included in this book, and they all helped pull me into the story. I love the foil on the cover, I love Warren’s creepy little silhouette, I love the full page illustrations at the start of each chapter and bold typography that’s inserted into the regular text. (deep breath) I love the two-column type, I love the simplistic yet bold black, red and white color scheme, I love Warren’s gap-toothed smile, and the puzzles they’ve slipped into the story. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful and enticing middle-grade books I own.
If you like bold graphics and typography, the images alone will probably be enough to get you to check out this book.
Now, without further gushing, here are the pictures I promised: