Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge: A “Down the Rabbit Hole” Reimagining You Never Saw Coming…

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It’s an absolute travesty, I know, but I haven’t posted an entry in the Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge 2015 since JULY. Yep it’s been Two. Whole. Months.  Considering this challenge was devised by me, that is incredibly slack. To make up for this dire transgression, I have a triple-bunger of oddness for you with a reimagining of falling down the rabbit hole that is completely out of left field. Today I have the first three volumes in a new release graphic novel series for the middle grade set that is a bit odd in pretty much every sense, but I will officially be submitting it under the category of Odd Subject Matter, given that it is a new twist on an old favourite.

As an aside, if you’d like to find out more about the challenge (and join in – there’s still time with levels starting at completion of just three books!), just click on the image at the top of this post.

Now back to business. I received copies of the first three volumes of Malice in Ovenland (yes, you read that correctly) by Micheline Hess, from Rosarium Publishing via Netgalley – and at first, I wondered what on earth I’d gotten myself into. But about halfway through volume two….well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here’s the blurb from Rosarium:

Lily Brown is a bright, curious, energetic young girl from Queens, New York. She lives with her mom and loves reading and writing and spending time with her friends. But she hates cleaning!

So, when her mom forces her to stay home for the summer instead of going off to some fun soccer or riding camp, Lily fumes. She wanted excitement and adventure. She didn’t want to do chores.Little did she know that the greasy oven in the kitchen was going to give her more excitement and adventure than she could possibly handle.

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And so begins the tale of Malice in Ovenland. The first volume introduces Lily’s fall down the Ovenhole, as it were, and is replete with elements of middle-grade appeal – disgusting smells, blobby, gross monsters, vomit and general yuckiness. The art style is cartoony and this, coupled with the stomach-churning subject matter, very nearly put me off but for some reason, when I saw the second volume pop up on Netgalley I threw caution to the wind and gave Lily and her grease monsters a second go.

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I’m glad I did. The action ramps up in the second volume and we are given a bit more plot and a little less grotesquerie (although there’s still plenty to please yuck-loving young readers). In this volume, Lily is thrown into the dungeon of the grease monsters’ castle, wherein she encounters a helpful pile of bones and a possible ally in this hostile environment. The cliffhanger at the end of this volume actually had me really wondering where the story would go, so when volume three popped up on Netgalley….well, you can guess what I did.

The third volume again upped the plot twists and provided more puzzles to solve, as Lily encounters a foodie ghost and attempts to escape from some relentless pursuers. By this volume, the yuckier elements have receded somewhat and I was quite drawn in to Lily’s escape. malice in ovenland 3

I did decide to leave the series here, even though the next volume was available for request, but having read the first three volumes, I can see how the series could well continue to become more engaging with each instalment. Malice in Ovenland will have great appeal to the “reluctant reader” camp of middle graders (and possibly even a slightly older audience) at whom I suspect this is squarely aimed, but I was surprised by how much I was enjoying it by the end of the third volume, compared to what I thought of the first. This suggests that if you can get past the initial grease-based humour of the first volume, there could be a fun bit of mindless escapism waiting for you if you pick this one up.

Although if you do venture into Ovenland, I’d recommend wearing gloves.

Progress toward Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge goal: 13/16

Until next time,

Bruce

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