Books: Finn battles Legends on Infected Side in mission to save his father
Young adults: Darkmouth 2: Worlds Explode, Shane Hegarty, HarperCollins, hdbk, 464 pages, €14.99
When news of Shane Hegarty's six-figure book deal broke in 2013, everyone sat up and took notice. Large deals are rare and international publishers like HarperCollins do not open their cheque books lightly.
The first book in the series, Darkmouth, published in January, lived up to the hype.
It's set in the mist-swirling town of Darkmouth, the last Blighted Village in Ireland plagued by Legends, mythical man-eating monsters. Twelve-year-old Finn is training to be a Legend Hunter like his father, Hugo, shrinking and containing Legends who stray out of their own world, the Infected Side, with Desiccator guns. Think Ghostbusters meets Percy Jackson.
At the end of book one, Hugo is trapped on the Infected Side.
In book two it's up to Finn and his friend, Emmie to save him, along with a new character, Estravon Oakbound. Estravon is an Accessor sent by the Council of Twelve, Darkmouth's government, to document and record Hugo's disappearance.
A cautious, gloomy man, his 'civil service' pronouncements about protocol and pay grades will make parents or teachers reading the book aloud smile wryly, but may be lost on the average nine-year-old.
Estravon announces that if Hugo is not back in Darkmouth within two days, the Council will appoint another Legend Hunter and the family will lose their home.
Finn is determined not to let this happen and finds a gateway to the Infected Side to rescue his father, taking Emmie and a reluctant Estravon with him.
First Finn and Emmie must find a map to show them how to locate the gateway but it takes them 16 chapters to do so, which stretched this reader's patience.
Only when they reach the Infected Side does the plot really start to take off. Luckily, the chapters (66 of them in total, it's a chunky book) are short, ideal for younger or more reluctant readers who will feel a sense of achievement every time they finish one.
Hegarty's writing is full of gentle humour and well-crafted dialogue. His descriptions of the Infected Side are deftly painted: a world of festering pits filled with Death Larva, petrified forests with branches frozen 'mid-agony', and fire spits, a nod to the fire swamp in The Princess Bride.
In this book he introduces the Orthrus, the two-headed dog of Greek mythology (although Hegarty's creation has only one head) and Qyetzalcótal, a flying serpent, to his menagerie of Legends. James de la Rue's strong line drawings bring these magnificent creatures to life.
With book three in the series, Chaos Descends, out in February, Hegarty has been working hard. If he keeps the books pacy and Legend-filled, he's on to a winner.
Sarah Webb's most recent book for younger readers is The Songbird Café: Mollie Cinnamon is Not a Cupcake (Walker Books).