________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 2. . . .September 10, 2010.


The Dark Deeps: The Hunchback Assignments II.

Arthur Slade.
Toronto, ON: HarperCollins, 2010.
314 pp., hardcover, $18.99.
ISBN 978-1-55468-356-7.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Jennifer Draper.





He lay down again. The ceiling light was bright and contained in a circular, glass-enclosed compartment. There was no flame, so it was neither gas nor oil. The whole room thrummed; a sense of light vibration came from everything he touched. He was on a ship of sorts, and, if this wasn’t all a dream, it was a ship that could travel under the water…whoever had an army of these vessels would rule the seas.

Victorian/Edwardian England has only dreamed of submarine technology up to this point. So when ships start mysteriously disappearing off Iceland, the “Association” sends teenage secret agents Modo and Octavia to discover what is going on.

     Modo can make his ugly countenance into a replica of any person he can imagine. For the first 12 years of his life, he is kept in an “Association” house, without going outside, and no human contact save the servants. There, he learns how to fight, read and write. He learns how to be the ultimate spy. But now he has competition from a slightly insane invisible boy named Griff who works for the Clockwork Guild. The Guild is an evil organization that wants the submarine technology for itself and aims to use it to destroy England. In the middle is the owner of the submarine, the ocean bound/underwater country of Icaria. Icaria has managed to build an underwater city and protects its borders by sinking any ship that travels into its territory. It just never bothers telling those ships they are trespassing. The society is an idealized one, where able-bodied and crippled are equal, as are the genders. It is led by a fanatical Captain who cheerfully sinks ships and takes hostages but then cannot understand why those hostages do not want to be part of her Utopia.

     The Dark Deeps is written in the steampunk genre. This genre encompasses Edwardian and Victorian England and the use of steam power. Inventions such as a mechanical hand and chemicals that can turn a child invisible are present.

      The setting is aptly described, and readers can visualize the scenery as it is presented. The Dark Deeps is much better written than the first in the series, The Hunchback Assignments. In general, the characters are well presented, and Modo is well fleshed out. The Dark Deeps is an excellent adventure, and the plot keeps readers interested.


Jennifer Draper is a librarian/children’s literature afficionado, lives in Oshawa, ON.

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