Worse Things Happen at Sea by Alan Snow was sent to me by the Amazon Vine review programme in exchange for my honest opinion of the book.
It is the second book in a series about a surreal world in which humans co-habit with strange creatures called Box Trolls. The first book, Here Be Monsters, was made into a popular children’s film called: The Box Trolls.
I hadn’t read the first book before I launched into Worse Things Happen at Sea, and to be honest I wish I had. There are hints as to what happened in the first volume, but they are just that, and you have to try to piece together how the world works and what has gone before in order to make full sense of what you are reading. I found it pretty hard work to be honest.
If I’m being fair I would question whether this kind of thing would bother a child reader as much as it bothers me. My experience is that most children will dip in and out of a series of books much more easily than I would, and not be bothered by issues of continuity or indeed not fully understanding the background to what they are reading.
The book tells the story of a town called Ratbridge in which the town’s laundry is done by a pirate crew, and their rats, who have moored their ship in the town’s marina and are making a much better living taking in washing than they did being pirates.
The pirates however have to go back to life on the high seas, after their friend Arthur’s grandfather is taken ill and is given a miracle medicine called Black Jollop. The Black Jollop is a cure all, but soon runs out, and the Dr who runs the clinic forces the pirates to help him find new supplies of the amazing ingredients.
There is a much darker side to events as it transpires that Black Jollop is not quite as wonderful as everyone thought. In fact, it has horrible side effects, and Arthur and his friends find themselves in a race against time and the forces of evil to find a cure and get back to Ratbridge as soon as possible.
The plot is high octane with some very funny moments. There is lots going on that keeps you turning the pages, and a lovely surreal quality to the story, enhanced by the madcap black and white illustrations. The sub plot with the box trolls is rather weak and doesn’t really explain much about what the box trolls are, or what they do and I think this might have been explained in the first book. I feel it would be better to read these books in order because of this.
I recommend the book to boys and girls aged 7-10.