The Toymaker - Jeremy De Quidt

Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Synopsis: What good is a toy that will wind down? What if you could put a heart in one? A real heart. One that beat and beat and didn't stop. What couldn't you do if you could make a toy like that? From the moment Mathias becomes the owner of a mysterious piece of paper, he is in terrible danger. Entangled in devious plots and pursued by the sinister Doctor Leiter and his devilish toys, Mathias finds himself on a quest to uncover a deadly secret.


Review: Wow. This book, gifted to me by a friend on The Book Club Forum, was right up my alley. What an absolute pleasure it was to read! It's a young adult novel, but it combines elements of horror, steampunk, and fantasy to make an exceptionally dark read by YA standards. EXCEPTIONALLY dark. I absolutely loved it!

The prose is stunning - I had to make myself take my time reading this book so as to fully immerse myself in it and really enjoy it. Full of atmosphere, well-rounded characters and featuring really beautiful illustrations, it's hard to believe this is a debut novel. De Quidt is definitely a natural-born storyteller. I'm not a huge fan of fantasy, but this novel imbues just enough to make it darkly magical. The Toymaker himself can bring toys to life using the hearts of birds, the main anatagonist possesses a seemingly living lie-dector doll named Marguerite, and there's Valter, the seemingly-indestructable, superhuman dwarf - these things are never explained or placed in the context of a world with strict magic rules, but it works.

The characters are really interesting - Katta kind of takes the centre stage for most of the novel, but the other characters - Katta, Koenig, Stefan, Leiter, Valter, Luttsman, Gustav... yes, there are tons of them, and I only realise now, in listing them out, that every single one of them is wholly portrayed and credible. So much is packed into this story, but none of it ever feels rushed or underdeveloped... for the most part. I will admit that I was a little surprised that the alleged main character, Mathias, spends the vast majority of the book injured and unable to do much of anything, and that The Toymaker himself is the least developed character of all. On top of that, I have to admit that the ultimate reveal of the secret was somewhat underwheleming, referring as it did to a whole other story we never really saw anything of (and therefore I found a little difficult to care about) - but at the end of the day, this is primarily the story of Mathias and Katta trying to escape the clutches of a terrible secret, and that story is told in its entirety.

A really unusual, and even with my few misgivings, a genuinely accomplished novel. For fans of storytelling fireside stories.

Rating: 4/5

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