Review: Alistair Grimm’s Odditorium by Gregory Funaro

Author: Gregory Funaro
Title: Alistair Grimm’s Odditorium
Series: Odditorium #1
Format/Source: eBook/Author
Published: January 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Middle grade historical fantasy
Why I Read: Sounded like a fun read
Read If You: Like Victorian England + dash of fantasy
Rating: ★★★
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon
I received a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for my honest review.

The novel opens with a striking article from The Times, headline “WILLIAM STOUT SENTENCE TO HANG!” This sets the tone for a Dickensian tale to follow. Alistair Grim’s Odditorium embraces its Victorian setting for the first half of the tale, but it loses its grounding as it veers off into fantastical territory. What I liked most was Grub’s process of becoming a part of the Odditorium crew. Around chapter 6, I noted “Good gateway to Gothic fiction”. Around chapter 10, though, once Prince Nightshade really entered the story, I felt like the book I was just becoming comfortable with spun around into something else. Too much happened too quickly. I wanted to stay in the world of the chimney sweep urchin, but that’s not exactly the story being told here.

Plot aside, there are a lot of things I liked about this book. As tends to be the case with me and middle grade, I adored Grubb, mostly for two reasons: He’s honest to a fault (and knows it) and acts reasonably for his age. Examples: When Mr. Grim and Nigel exchange ‘a look’, which too often is a signal for the reader and not the character, Grubb acknowledges it with “I had the impression he was hiding something, but him being Mr. Grim, I wasn’t about to press the matter” (26%). Funaro works in dialect in a natural manner. Grub speaks in a voice suited to his character without going so far as too be distracting. Hints are scattered throughout that Grubb’s favourable impressions of Grimm may not be the most accurate. Some other characters I liked are the Yellow Fairy (the magic system with its colours in general is a neat creation), Nigel and Cleona (though I hope she develops more beyond a plot device in future installments of the series). The story, which has an overall action-adventure tone, has punches of humour (“No need to worry, sir,” I said. “I don’t have any appendages, far as I can tell.” [64%]) and intensity (when Grub’s prison companion is taken away [71%]).

The Bottom Line: Overall, Alistair Grimm’s Odditorium has components that give it the potential to be a fun read, but the story loses focus in the later half for someone who’s not interested in action-adventure. 

Further Reading: