Ten Thousand Charms

Written by Leander Watts
Review by Jane Kessler

This gothic tale is set in the Genesee Valley in western New York sometime during the first half of the 19th century. Roddy Whitelaw, age 10, has been apprenticed by his parents to the ropeworks factory under the sinister taskmaster Mr. Queed. He works six days a week turning the crank of the rope braiding machine.

King Ivars and his three daughters settle in the area from Germany when the King loses his throne. He is interested in strange events and mysterious objects (what he calls charms), such as two-headed cats and rivers that flow backward. There’s much to keep him occupied in America, including a parliament of crows. King Ivar’s middle daughter, Thea, becomes the object of desire of the evil Scalandar, who is the son of Mother Fecula, housekeeper for Mr. Queed. Roddy and the king join forces to rescue Thea from Mother Fecula’s evil plotting.

My eleven-year-old daughter and I enjoyed the characters and plot of this story, but were left feeling somewhat dissatisfied that certain elements weren’t explained, such as how Mother Fecula came to have a son like Scalander. We wanted more! (Ages 11+)