The monsters in question are a hunchback, a vampire, a lizard-headed
man, a werewolf, and a lady with snakes for hair. They start out as
little painted figurines in a wooden box. Then they come to life.
Then they get big.
Anthony Walker had bought the box at an estate sale. Now he and his
sister Sarah join the monsters - except they're not really monsters,
or at least not always - on a midnight trip to Morley Manor. It's the
first stop on a strange adventure that includes giant frogs, the Land
of the Dead and other dimensions, long-lost love, and a plot to turn
the ghosts of Earth into battery power.
The Monsters of Morley Manor does not follow through on the
promise of its title as a monster story, scary or otherwise, which is
oddly disappointing. Instead, Bruce Coville turns out a solid, but
somehow mundane, thriller for younger teens. It is fantastic without
being fantasy, horror or science fiction.
(Coville actually makes an observation about such genre
pigeon-holing. At one point Anthony says, "In the movies they always
use either science or magic to do stuff, but not both," to
which Gaspar the lizard-man replies, "That represents a small-minded
view of the world. But then, people always do like to put things in
Even Gaspar would have to admit that some concoctions work better
than others, and The Monsters of Morley Manor is not
necessarily Bruce Coville at his best. (The Skull of Truth is
still one of the more amazing books I have read in the past ten
years.) But it is unfair to ask every book, even from Coville, to be
superlative, and Morley Manor is still entertaining, fast and
funny. Coville is unpredictable with the small things that keep you
on your toes. And, always, he is funny: slapstick, irony, puns, sly
send-ups. The mixed genres he mines are rich with material for humor.
Dust jacket illustration by John Berg; used courtesy of Harcourt, Inc.
by Wendy Morris. © 2001
Back to the Index Page