Before I get started, Charlie Bone is the protag in a series of books called The Children of the Red King. It gets a little confusing with the many characters, the various powers, etc. I’m going to do a summary of the first book (yeah, will probably include spoilers) but I don’t think I’ll continue to sum up the series. Cuz that isn’t fair to ruin a whole series, ya know? Plus, this book is HARD to sum up and sound coherent. I’ll give it a go nonetheless!
Synopsis: Charlie discovers that he can hear people in photographs when he receives a photo of a father and daughter, and you can hear the photographer saying this will be the last time the father will see his little girl. While his mom and grandma Maisie are frightened at this discovery, the Bone/Yewbeam side of the family is ecstatic and enroll him into Bloor’s Academy. Charlie doesn’t have a choice– the family is at the mercy of Grandma Bone et al. See, since Charlie’s dad died when he was two, Charlie lives with his mom, his mom’s mom (Maisie), his uncle Paton, and his dad’s mom (Grizelda Bone). Gma Bone has kept them on a short leash so she can see if Charlie is endowed with a special gift (the photograph hearing). The Yewbeam aunts (Grandma Bone’s three sisters) are also a little on the evil side and help Grandma when necessary to keep them in check.
Charlie gets a surprise visit from an “exterminator” named Onimous and the three flame cats (one yellow, one orange, one red). Onimous tells him to get the picture back to the owner, Ms. Ingledew. She explains the picture is of her niece, and her bro-in-law Mr. Tolley gave the baby up in exchange for an invention. Charlie resolves to help her find the baby (who would now be 10, Charlie’s age). He has a suspicion that she’ll be at Bloor’s. Ingledew gives him a suitcase (I’ll call the Tolley case) and a dog statue that plays audio recordings. Charlie tells his BFF Ben, and they decide to hide the case at Ben’s house across the street so Gma Bone and her sisters won’t find it. Charlie confides in Uncle Paton, and because Miss Ingledew is adorable, Paton wants to help as much as he can.
Bloor’s is a gloomy school for geniuses and “the endowed” Children of the Red King. The school is split into 3 groups: Art, Drama, and Music. Charlie shows no musical talent, or any talent, so he gets a tutor, Fidelio, a really likable and a nice guy, but just a musical genius. 🙂 (All of the endowed are just stuck in different classes, whether they have a talent in it or not.) The endowed also have to do their homework in the King’s Room together. There are two with psychokinesis (Beth and Zelda), an albino, Billy Raven, who can speak with animals, Gabriel Silk feels things about people when he wears/feels their clothes, Tancred can cause weather changes, Lysander can call spirits. Manfred Bloor is the evil son of the school founder, and he can hypnotize. Asa is a sidekick of his, power not stated at first. Others whose powers I can’t recall/are not revealed: Dorcas, Bindi, and Emilia Moon. Gabriel’s cape gives him nightmares, he can only wear new clothing. He swiped Charlie’s cape, and after some discussion Charlie is okay with it, but he gets Gabe to find out stuff about his dad by asking him to hold his dad’s scarf. Gabe says that his dad is lost, but not dead. Manfred and Asa keep trying to get Charlie to give up the case Ms Ingledew gave him, they are the obvious bad guys. They somehow confirm that Ingledew’s niece is at Bloor’s but is “waking up,” implying that Manfred keeps her hypnotized. Charlie also meets a drama student Olivia Vertigo, who is up for an adventure and a challenge.
Everyone with me so far?
Charlie gets to stay an extra day for detention. He makes a plan with Fidelio and Ben to get them to smuggle the Tolley case to Fidelio’s house. They figure out that the dog statue is a recorded message from Tolley, who gives all the surly details about the last day he saw his daughter Emma– she was hypnotized by a young Manfred, a young organist (Charlie’s dad) tried to stop it but he also got hypnotized. She was taken because she can fly. Charlie figures out that the girl must be Emilia Moon, who is endowed but is barely functional.
Long story short, Olivia manages to get Emilia to Fidelio’s house the next weekend, and they wake her up. Billy Raven is with them when it happens. The weekend before, the Bloors offered to find the orphaned Billy a home if he spies on Charlie and reports back, so that’s exactly what he does. Emma/Emilia is locked up but she flies out and runs into Paton, who takes her to Ms Ingledew. YAY one plot line tied up neatly!
We’re not going to get into how the Bloors & Charlie’s Yewbeam aunts and gma tried to get back at Charlie for ruining their control over Emma. Let’s just say, the good endowed children kick the butts of the bad endowed children despite the Bloors’ and Yewbeams’ best efforts.
I know my summary was wordy and complicated. Nimmo is creating a fantasy world with a lot of coincidences, mysteries, etc. Future books have a family tree and a character listing– it’s that kind of complicated. I’m brushing up on the series because a new one came out, but I DON’T think I’ll be trying to sum it up again! 😀
- The Red King (like, a thousand years ago) had ten kids who were all endowed with special powers, many that he had himself. Five turned evil while five used their powers for good. Their offspring are the endowed.
- Asa is in the drama department and he stalks Charlie on his weekends off. It’s hilarious, he dresses up in old man clothes but is unconvincing.
- Maisie gets Charlie to listen to some pictures in a pop magazine. The photographer tells the actress she’s getting fat, the actor in it says he likes his women with some meat, and she tells them both to go to hell. Lolz.
- Poor Charlie can’t escape his Yewbeam aunts; one is the school matron, one tries to be Ben’s nanny, and well, they’re all trying to kill him.
- Paton’s power is his energy breaks lightbulbs. Kinda awesome, despite questionable usefulness. Paton (Pay-ton? Pat-on?) is a hero; he saves Ben’s dog Runner Bean when something attacks him to get the Tolley case. He gets Ben’s parents back home after years of him practically raising himself. (Charlie couldn’t remember what Ben’s mom looked like, they were that absent. They were supposedly secret agents.)
Grades: 4/5th-middle school. I found out about this working with the remedial eighth grade class that I feel like I’ve mentioned before… Anyway, one boy in there was in awe of these books, so they fall in the “boys like this” category.
Grade: B/B+ I like the series, it’s pretty cute. It’s a less intricate story than Harry Potter, which makes it easier for youngsters to follow for kids who like HP-esque stories. (I know, after all that summary it’s hard to believe, but each story is for the most part stand-alone. Don’t hold me to that.)