Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Mystic Phyles: Beasts by Stephanie Brockway and Ralph Masiello

Abigail Thaddeus is overprotected anti-social and boring until, on her thirteenth birthday, she is given a quest to research mythical beasts by someone known as the "Devoted Friend." This is not an easy task considering she doesn't have a lot of support from the people around her: she's not let out of the house by her tyrannical grandfather, her sweet grandmother is rather crazy, her only friend Charley is constantly sick, and she's constantly picked on by evil Kane and the empty-headed Britney-s.

Abigail perseveres and creates a journal of everything she discovers, but as she learns more she starts noticing strange things happening - strange noises at night, bats flying around the house, a threatening note from the Board of Mystical Management, and her grandfather becomes more neurotic in his need to keep Abigail safe. On top of all of this, Abigail must deal with Charley's social goal of climbing the popularity ladder from brainiac to band geek, Kane stealing the journal, Britney bailing as a science partner and leaving Abigail to do all the homework, and actually becoming a part of the school as she seems to have made a connection to the artistic Deke. How is she supposed to deal with all of this, especially when Abigail is discovering what she thought was fantasy is actually quite real.

It's been a while but I briefly blogged about this book back in 2010, when I heard Stephanie and Ralph discuss the production of The Mystic Phyles at the MSLA Conference. I remember being extremely impressed with the amount of detail that they had put in to just the creation of the pages, and now I've seen the real deal. Yeesh! Each page has a painted background, the text looks like the paper been cut to size by hand, there are beautifully hand-drawn sketches, bits of yarn are all over the place, random haiku add to the Abigail's journal entries, and the 'official' artwork is beautiful.

This doesn't even cover the characters or storyline, which are super fun and original. Abigail is fantastically funny, and so wonderfully downtrodden you can't help but love her. She doesn't fall into any one category of your stereotypical young teen heroine - she's funny, honest, quirky, and I think more importantly aware of her shortcomings. She isn't laden with angst or overbearing with Pollyanna positivity, she's something kind of new and interesting. She has a sensibility and grounded self-awareness that I think is so refreshing, actually all of the characters are quite charming (though I'm hoping that the secondary characters will be fleshed out a bit more in the following books). The plot kind of reminds me of the Spiderwick Chronicles, which I haven't read, but with more mystery and less action. A lot less action. Most of the book is spent with Abigail creating beautiful fact pages about mythical beasts or discussing her school life, nothing really action-y happens until about the last five to eight pages of the book. I didn't mind though, because each page is so visually stimulating and interesting. Whether discovering weirdo facts about a barghest or reading about Abigail's freak out during her oral presentation, I was completely engaged the entire time.

Get the book it's wonderful.

1 comment:

  1. Your enthusiasm makes me actually want to thumb through this one even though it's not a typical "glitter" read :)

    Everneath is Brodi Ashton's debut novel. It is being released as book 1 in a trilogy. I think it looks promising! Thanks for swinging through! Don't be a stranger :)


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