The Monstrous Child
By Francesca Simon
Published by Faber and Faber / Profile Books
ISBN978 0 571 33026 3
You are fourteen years old, you don’t get on very well with your father, you have two older brothers who ignore you most of the time, and your mother wishes you had never been born. It’s no wonder you hate everything about your life.
And that’s not all. Your father is a god who only storms into your life on the odd occasion before making a loud exit. Your mother is a giantess. Oh, and brother number one is a wolf and brother number two is a snake.
This delightful family all live in Jotunheim, east of Asgard, home of the gods. The last child of Loki and Angrboda slithered into the family fourteen or so years ago, and her father suggested she should be killed. Not a very nice welcome to the Nine Worlds! But the little girl lived, and her parents named her Hel.
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Francesca Simon, the author of the Horrid Henry series for children, comes up with a novel about a troubled teen that will greatly appeal to modern young adult readers.
Simon spends the first few chapters of The Monstrous Child introducing us to the gods and giants that make up Hel’s world, and what a horrid and foul lot they are. No wonder poor Hel has personality issues. She herself is ugly and deformed, and hates her appearance. But Hel is a hero with a lively mind, a great sense of humour and a strong will to make the best of the cards fate has dealt her.
She is, after all, a half-goddess and there must be something good about such a position.
Hel has spent her first fourteen years lounging around in the chilly wastes of Jotunheim, but that is about to change. One chillier-than-usual day, she and her two brothers are kidnapped and carted off to Asgard to appear before an assembly of gods who Hel has heard about but never actually met.
Odin, the One-Eyed King of the Gods, has heard a rumour that one of Loki’s offspring has developed a power that could harm the all-powerful gods on their thrones in Asgard. Action must be taken, and Loki’s three children disposed of.
Hel is therefore thrown out of Asgard and cast down into the Underworld to become its new ruler. Hel, Queen of the Dead and Ruler of that Crèche of Horrors, the Underworld. She never asked for this.How is she going to cope?
The Monstrous Child is an original, at times funny, at times grim, black comedy. Its strength is Hel’s spirited personality and Simon’s approach to creating her. Readers of all ages will root for this unusual heroine as she battles to overcome her fate.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com