Review: The Charlatan’s Boy

The Charlatan’s Boy
By Jonathon Rogers

Grady and Floyd make their living by lying. As long as he can remember, Floyd’s stood in as a feechie expert, and Grady’s dressed up as a real life he-feechie. Their little act is helped by the fact that Grady may in fact be the ugliest boy in the world.

The problem is, not too many people believe in feechies anymore. The villagers pretty much have made up their minds that there’s no elf-like race living in the swamps. And if they don’t believe that feechies exist, why would they pay a feechie expert to expound on how to deal with the strange creatures? Why, they don’t even believe Grady’s amazing performance anymore!

Then, Floyd comes up with the best idea of all: Why not create a feechie scare? People will be more willing to pay to hear him if they’re frightened. It shouldn’t take that much work to get people believing in the strange creatures again, right? And once they do, well, Floyd and Grady should have plenty of good cash.

The novel takes a rather predictable path once the plot is laid out. Floyd and Grady do instigate a general panic about feechies, and as might be expected, the scare comes back to bite them. However, as is often the case in such stories, the fun isn’t necessarily in the destination, but how the author gets us there. I am delighted to say that while the destination, at least in general terms, is easy to guess, the path is full of great twists and turns. The series of misadventures that lead to the climax are both entertaining and amusing.

The prose style of the novel charmed me. Grady tells the story in first-person, complete with defective spelling and grammar. A comment on the book remarks that Rogers’ novel reads like a cross between Mark Twain and C. S. Lewis. I don’t see the C. S. Lewis dynamic at all, but in story and prose style, the book reminded me strongly of Huck Finn without the swearing. The world also is reminiscent of Twain’s America, though with a few fantastic touches.

Grady makes a great narrator. He has been raised by a charlatan, and his worldview reflects that. His discussion with a teacher early in the novel had me laughing out loud; not too many books elicit that much of a response! He wrestles with morality throughout the story, and his character sings true through the struggle.

After I finished reading the book, I wondered if there might be more. A sequel to this book is slated to be released this spring, but apparently Rogers has a previous trilogy set in this world. I would never have guessed; this novel stands by itself, and if there are any easter eggs, they do not interfere with the story. Congratulations to Rogers for resisting the urge to make in-jokes that seem to plague so many other worlds like this!

I don’t usually note the format of books, but the cover and interior art perfectly fit the subject of the book. Kudos to the design team!

This novel is a pleasant diversion and I recommend picking it up. I am a little mystified as to why this was released through a Christian publishing house, though. This volume does not portray anything strictly Christian, except the general morality of the tale. Perhaps I’ll understand more when I read book two. Oh, yes. I am looking forward to reading more adventures with Grady.

Legal nuts and bolts: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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