Friday 19 July 2013

Review: Monster Odyssey: The Eye of Neptune by Jon Mayhew

Prince Dakkar, son of an Indian rajah, has issues with authority. Expelled from the world's finest schools, he is sent to an unconventional educator, Count Oginski. Dakkar plans his escape immediately. But something about the Count intrigues him, including a top-secret project which he shares with Dakkar - a submarine. But others are interested in the Count's invention and what it might achieve and, when masked men kidnap the Count, leaving Dakkar for dead, he doesn't know who was responsible. It could have been British Intelligence, or perhaps a sinister figure known only as Cryptos. Either way, Dakkar is determined to rescue the Count. Taking the prototype submarine, he sets off for adventure.

Cue shark attack, giant sea creatures, spies and an evil megalomaniac. From his undersea refuge, Dakkar plans to take them all on . . . with a bit of help from a girl.

In the past few years we have seen a number of children’s authors producing stories featuring characters created by other authors. For me the two that stand out above the rest have been Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock books and Charlie Higson’s Young Bond. Now there is another player at the table, his name is Jon Mayhew, and with The Eye of Neptune, the first book in his Monster Odyssey series, the cards suddenly seem stacked in his favour. Jon has taken Prince Dakkar, one of the most famous characters from science fiction/speculative fiction and produced a rip-roaring origins adventure for him.

Prince Dakkar, who is he?” I hear some of you cry. And I guess you could be slightly forgiven for not recognising the given name of one of Jules Verne’s most famous and enduring creations – the one and only Captain Nemo. Yes, that Captain Nemo . He of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea fame, one of my all-time favourite books (even if Verne does get a little too tied up with lengthy descriptions of the plethora of underwater flora and fauna that are observed during the adventures of the Nautilus and its crew).

I’m finding it quite difficult to add any more of a synopsis of the story other than that which is outlined in the above blurb that was taken from the book’s Amazon listing. Those blurbs on Amazon are often not particularly helpful, but in this case the publishers have nailed it, and the book is exactly what is says on the tin. However, to put it into my own words, the rebellious teenager, Prince Dakkar, finds himself suddenly thrown into a huge conspiracy involving a suitably evil megalomaniac with old-school plans for world domination. Thus begins a submarine adventure that sees the arrogant and authority-challenging Prince’s character changed almost beyond recognition as he makes new friends, fights pirates and battles to escape the jaws of more sea monsters than you would find in a box set of Harryhausen films.

I have been a huge fan of Jon’s writing ever since I was sent a copy of Mortlock, back in the very early days of The Book Zone. All three of the books set in that gruesomely dark and delightfully twisted Victorian world were superb reads, with jon showing that he is a master storyteller. Despite some pretty horrific moments (usually involving sea monsters), The Eye of Neptune is not as dark as the Mortlock ‘series’ but this is a good thing as that level of darkness would not have suited this kind of old-school Boys’ Own style adventure. Instead of creeping dread, we are filled with a longing for action and adventure as the story races along at a suitably exciting pace, with lashings of humour thrown in for good measure. This is the kind of story where readers will find themselves desperate to be in the shoes of the main characters of Prince Dakkar, and his new friend Georgia Fulton, despite the many dangers they face.

I believe there is at least one more book due to be released featuring Prince Dakkar, and as a fan of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea I can’t wait to find out how Mayhew continues to develop his young character, giving him the experiences that mould him into the enigmatic anti-hero of Verne’s classic stories.

My thanks go to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending me a copy of Monster Odyssey: The Eye of Neptune to read.

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