Book Review: MALAMANDER by Thomas Taylor

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: MG
Star Rating: 4/5 stars
Series: Yes - first book



It’s winter in the town of Eerie-on-Sea, where the mist is thick and the salt spray is rattling the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Inside, young Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder for the hotel, has an unexpected visitor. It seems that Violet Parma, a fearless girl around his age, lost her parents at the hotel when she was a baby, and she’s sure that the nervous Herbert is the only person who can help her find them.

The trouble is, Violet is being pursued at that moment by a strange hook-handed man. And the town legend of the Malamander — a part-fish, part-human monster whose egg is said to make dreams come true — is rearing its scaly head. As various townspeople, some good-hearted, some nefarious, reveal themselves to be monster hunters on the sly, can Herbert and Violet elude them and discover what happened to Violet’s kin? This lighthearted, fantastical mystery, featuring black-and-white spot illustrations, kicks off a trilogy of fantasies set in the seaside town.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is a really fun Middle Grade mystery set in a magical world. I picked it up and read it in one go, late into the night. I simply didn’t want to put it down.

The mystery weaves in myths and legends as if they’re everyday occurrences. Being MG, it’s not the most complicated mystery – and I worked out much of the mystery about halfway through – but the execution was wonderful. All the elements are gradually woven in, meeting new characters, introducing clues, and building the stakes.

The voice is wonderful, right from the beginning it hooked me with its direct address to the reader. Herbie takes everything in his stride, introducing us and Violet to Eerie-on-Sea.

The town felt like an old UK seaside town, minus the new, ugly seaside developments, and with a sprinkling of magic. It has twisty lanes with strange names, old houses and sea mist. It reminded me of a nicer version of the Kent sea towns. It has that quirkiness often found in MG, but it’s a little less – more magic than unusual.

The magic is woven into the world, like a mechanical monkey that dispenses books or sea monsters and ghosts. The names are also a lot of fun. Seegol the fish and chip man. Mrs Fossil the beach comber.

Also my copy is so pretty (this is the Waterstones exclusive edition). The cover bright and intriguing (I love the MG illustrated style). It was so fun recognising the elements as they appeared in the story – but it feels so nice (matt cover) and has sprayed edges! I didn’t notice them until I got home, but the sprayed edges are a picture, a sliver of the cover.

I’m excited to see what comes next in the series.

Read my reviews of other books by Thomas Taylor:

Legends of Eerie-on-Sea (this series):


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