Jones is the boy with one name, snatched as an infant from his loving parents by a Badlander called Maitland, he only longs to be a normal boy and have his family back. One night, he and Maitland are on patrol and come across an ogre 'moon-bathing.' Things don't go quite to plan; enter: Ruby, a foster child on the run, who is desperate to be part of the Badlander's world, despite its dangers and terrors. Along with a talking gun, a miniature fire breathing black dog, an old camper van, and a hefty sprinkling of magic - you're sure to be taken on one hell of a ride!
The Badlands are all around us. All the things that you've heard about in stories - witches, ghosts, ogres, giants, spells, curses - they're all real. It's just that most people don't see them. If you're a Badlander, however, it's all you see.
Jones is tired of the Badlands. He's tired of hunting down enemies for his master, constantly checking out every place he goes to in case of dangerous creatures, tired of living without a family. But he was rescued as a baby by his master, Maitland, who picked him up as a bundle left behind on some steps. He wasn't wanted. All Maitland wants him to do is to commence - the act that will make him a true Badlander, and be able to perform magic and spells that we can only dream of. But Jones? Jones wants to be normal. He's seen snippets of real life on the televisions of shop windows as they pass by; he's seen families strolling with their children; children going to school to learn maths and English, not about the Ordnung (the Badlander law) and what specific types of metal kill or repel different monsters.
Wallis starts with what should be the biggest night of an apprentice's life: the night where they commence, and can perform proper magic. Maitland thinks he's ready (although his talking gun isn't too sure...) And Jones just doesn't know what to do. They've discovered an ogre moon-bathing, and Jones must make his first kill. Only, Jones knows this person as a man during daylight hours: he runs the sweet shop, and is perfectly kind. And, besides, he doesn't want anything to do with all this. But with Maitland being all he has, what can he do?
Enter Ruby, with a loud scream as she crashes her bike. This evening is really not going to plan. On the run from her foster parents, she's remarkably accepting of the situation when she gets past the 'thatsabloomingtrollogremonsterthingy!' When Ruby gets the measure of what's going on, all she can see is excitement. Being a Badlander sounds like the most awesome thing in the world. So what if the stupid Ordnung says that only boys can do magic. Girls can do everything boys can do, even better than boys in fact. Her mind's made up: Ruby Jenkins is going to be a Badlander.
The Badlands is a fantastic world that Wallis has created, hidden within our every day world. One could accuse it of being akin to Harry Potter (a magical world coexisting with the normal; some of the magical items are very similar e.g. 'Slap Dust' which has similar effects to 'Floo Powder' in Harry Potter), but they are in fact very different. This is pitched at a younger age group to Harry Potter and, as such, is a bit less serious and a lot of fun. Both the central characters, Ruby and Jones, are thoroughly likeable, and the other characters, even ones who play a minimal role, are well-rounded and thought out. There are no 'Mary Sues' here!
I enjoyed Wallis' 'The Boy with One Name.' I could see it becoming a series; there's definitely potential, although I'm not sure what the plans are. I certainly hope to read more about Jones and Ruby and their 'new circumstances!' (I won't give anything away - no spoilers!)
A really good and fun urban fantasy novel for middle grade readers; I would definitely recommend it.
Further reading suggestions: The Magesterium Series by Cassandra Claire and Holly Black; Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I received this free copy from The Book Bag in return for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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