fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsYA young adult fantasy book reviews Roland Smith TentaclesTentacles by Roland Smith

When I picked up Tentacles by Roland Smith, I had no idea it was a sequel (the first book being Cryptid Hunters). But I quickly discovered that it didn’t matter. Not only is there a list of dramatis personae at the beginning of the book, but Roland Smith is very deft at refreshing plot details without info-dumping the events of the previous book on unsuspecting readers.

In Tentacles, Marty, his cousin Grace, and his friend Luther join Marty’s uncle on a journey to capture a live giant squid — something that’s never been done before. But they’ll have to deal with a ship that might be haunted, a pair of dinosaur eggs that are ready to hatch, and sabotage courtesy of the evil Noah Blackwood.

The heroes and villains of Tentacles have a somewhat hokey, comic book feel to them, but this is a major part of its charm. Marty, Luther, Grace, and the various good guys tend to be super-geniuses with an enormous amount of skills and integrity. Even so, they manage to be well-written and full-fledged characters in their own right. And though even the kids are super-geniuses, they feel like kids. A common mistake in fiction for younger readers is that an adult author will have no idea how a kid behaves, but though they have many skills (some of them a little outrageous), Marty and Luther are very much boys. They perhaps have a bit more maturity than most boys their age (and with their level of intelligence one would hope so!) but their actions don’t completely belie their ages. Although I would like to mention that no thirteen-year-old boy I ever knew (and I think I’m a little bit less removed from 13 than Mr. Smith) would ever say something quite so dorky as “Duh du jour”! Grace, though, is unfortunately not present enough to get a feeling for her character.

Likewise, the villains are generally super-smart and/or extremely wily in a comic book sort of way. They’re a little over the top but I was having way too much fun to care much.

The plot of Tentacles might be straight-forward but it’s a real blast. Towards the end it gets really tense and exciting, keeping me turning pages right up to the somewhat cliff-hanger ending. My husband (who is reading and enjoying it very much as well) and I plan to pick up a copy of Cryptid Hunters soon. Perhaps that’ll hold us over until the next Cryptid Hunters book. And hopefully it won’t be too long a wait!

Cryptid Hunters — (2004-2014) Ages 9-12. Publisher: After their parents are lost in an accident, thirteen-year old twins Grace and Marty are whisked away to live with their Uncle Wolfe-an uncle that they didn’t even know they had! The intimidating Uncle Wolfe is an anthropologist who has dedicated his life to finding cryptids, mysterious creatures believed to be long extinct.

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  • Beth Johnson Sonderby (guest)

    BETH JOHNSON, one of our guest reviewers, discovered fantasy books at age nine, when a love of horses spurred her to pick up Bruce Coville’s Into the Land of the Unicorns. Beth lives in Sweden with her husband. She writes short stories and has been working on a novel.

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