by Tania del Rio, illustrated by Will Staehle
Published by Quirk Books, November 24, 2015
256 Pages • ISBN 978-1594748035 • Hardcover
I received an electronic ARC of this book from the publisher thru NetGalley for an honest review.
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Meet Warren the 13th, a cursed 12-year-old Victorian bellhop who’s terribly unlucky... yet perpetually optimistic, hard-working, and curious. Orphan Warren’s pride and joy is his family’s hotel, but he’s been miserable ever since his evil Aunt Anaconda took over the management. Anaconda believes a mysterious treasure known as the All-Seeing Eye is hidden somewhere on the grounds, and she’ll do anything to find it. If Warren wants to preserve his family’s legacy, he’ll need to find the treasure first—if the hotel’s many strange and wacky guests don’t beat him to it! This middle-grade adventure features gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page and a lavish two-column Victorian design that will pull young readers into a spooky and delightful mystery.
Twelve-year-old Warren the 13th is a bellhop at the hotel that his family has owned for generations. Warren is actually the only bellhop at the hotel, as the hotel has fallen into disrepair and disuse since his parents died and his Uncle Rupert and Aunt Anaconda have taken over the "management" of the hotel. His uncle is totally smitten with Anaconda, who is trying to locate the All-Seeing Eye, a mysterious something in the hotel that does something, but we're never quite given any hints of that something until the very end. The hotel is Warren's pride and joy, and he is forever optimistic that someday, the hotel will become as thriving as it once was. He has no friends in the hotel other than the cook and his teacher, no pets; in fact, Warren's life is pretty miserable under the ever-watchful eye of Anaconda.
Suddenly, one day a mysterious guest appears (whose head is entirely wrapped in bandages) and checks into the hotel. Then, Warren sees a mysterious ghostly figure in the hedge maze. Then, Anaconda's sisters arrive to help search for the All-Seeing Eye. Finally, the hotel is full to brimming with all manner of guests, who are all in search of the All-Seeing Eye. Before Warren knows it, he's off on an adventure of his own to discover the secret of the All-Seeing Eye before Anaconda and her sisters do, and along the way he actually makes some friends in unexpected places.
This is a clever story, and the accompanying illustrations are remarkable. Everything about the book made me feel that this would translate well into a film directed by Tim Burton; it has that particular look and feel to it, with its unusual looking characters and Gothic undertones. I'm anxious to see what the finished product looks like, as the pre-publication electronic copy I received has some unfinished illustrations in it, and I can only imagine how good the finished, printed copy will look like. I'm hoping we'll get to see more of Warren the 13th in the future.