School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—Billy, 15, is a street urchin and pickpocket in 19th-century London when he meets Mister Creecher. The huge and hideous-looking man saves him from the evil Fletcher and his henchmen, who are out to get Billy. Soon the teen likes the protection and added thieving and bargaining power that come from having the powerful and terrifying Creecher by his side, and in exchange he works as a detective for him by tailing Victor Frankenstein and his Swiss colleague around London. Eventually they follow the scientist to Oxford and then toward Scotland. As the friendship between Billy and Creecher grows, readers learn of Frankenstein's promise to create a mate for Creecher, and of the troubled past of both characters. Literary allusions referencing both Shelley's Frankenstein and Dickens's Oliver Twist will be lost on middle schoolers, who should be the target audience. While boys might seem like the obvious audience gauging from the cover art, it will be girls who buy in more to the exploration of matters of the heart and the dawning realization for Billy of why a female mate is so critical to the monster's happiness. This book may have trouble finding a wide readership, but for young diehard fans of Frankenstein's reanimated creature, it might be a good fit.—Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO
Priestley’s literary mashup of Dickens and Shelley makes for an entertaining adventure tale and potential gateway into those writers’ works. Fifteen-year-old urchin and thief Billy is attacked as he loots a corpse he finds on a London street, and he’s surprised when the body roars to life and saves him. His ghastly new companion introduces himself as “Creecher,” and he and Billy form an uneasy partnership. In return for Creecher’s protection, Billy helps spy on the mysterious Victor Frankenstein and his friend Henry Clerval. As Billy learns more about Creecher and Frankenstein, he is not only horrified at the misuse of science, but also at their callousness, something that undermines what little faith in humanity he still possesses. Priestley (the Tales of Terror series) paints a bleak picture, starting his characters in already depressing circumstances before setting them down a path with little hope. The dreariness is offset by Priestley’s vivid writing, which melds its influences with strong action and horror scenes, and should intrigue readers about the future fate of the leads. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Paula Rohrlick
Billy, age 15, is a petty thief and pickpocket working the streets of London in 1818. Roaming around in the fog late at night, he encounters a body on the pavement, and starts to search it for anything valuable. Two of his cronies come upon him, and accuse Billy of trying to cheat them. They are about to attack him when the man on the pavement rises up and saves Billy. He and Billy form an uneasy alliance, but is this strange, ugly giant, whom Billy calls Mister Creecher, really even a man? He turns out to be the creation of Victor Frankenstein, who has promised to make the lonely giant a mate. Billy and Mister Creecher follow Frankenstein from London to Oxford and then to the Lake District, to ensure that he keeps his promise. On the way they join up with a carnival of freaks, Billy falls in love, and more of Mister Creecher's background is revealed. The ending begs for a sequel, as some important matters are left unresolved. The era is well evoked and the suspense is often high in this picaresque tale. An Author's Note at the end discusses Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and briefly Oliver Twist, as Billy's last name turns out to be Sikes. But will young readers get these references if they don't read the Note, or understand why the freaks in the carnival include the likes of "Kafka, ?The Human Beetle'"? Still, the brooding atmosphere and sense of danger will keep fans of gothic tales turning the pages, as both characters seek connections. The appealingly mysterious cover illustration is by the author. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick
Looking younger than his 15 years but hardened by a life on the streets of 19th-century London, Billy accidentally befriends a monstrous man in this electrifying story set against the events of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
Struggling to survive in Dickensian squalor, Billy—orphan, thief and former chimney sweep—has resorted to picking corpses' pockets. No one is as surprised as Billy when his newest target wakes and saves Billy from vicious attackers. The rescuer's frightful appearance masks an Austen-loving, French-speaking and vegetarian soul. Though perpetually repulsed by "Mister Creecher," Billy agrees to spy upon Victor Frankenstein in exchange for protection. Pursuing Frankenstein and the promise of a female companion for Creecher, the unlikely duo follows the doctor out of London and into the untamed countryside, where they encounter grave robbers, circus sideshow performers and love. Creecher is often a more sympathetic character than Billy, but both figures evolve appreciably during their journey. Priestly combines a coming-of-age story with the gloomy atmosphere, moral dilemmas and slow pacing of Shelly's classic and the grime and casual cruelty of Dickens' Oliver Twist. Observant readers may also notice allusions to monster movies and Romantic poets.
By turns brooding and ghoulish, this old-fashioned gothic horror story is one lively read. (author's note) (Fiction. 12 & up)