Review: The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1) / by Madeleine

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Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

I'm sure you can guess what first drew me in to this new middle grade series. (Hint: always judge a book by its cover.) It was both the cover illustration (whimsical & quirky) and the title that made me want to preview this new series for you before its release next week on January 31st. 

Fun fact: Jennifer Bell was a long-time children's bookseller before she became a writer. I love supporting booksellers-turned-authors -- only they see how truly difficult it is to write and successfully sell a book from both sides of the process. Freshman authors rarely hit their stride on the first try, and while I won't be granting this book 5 stars, I'll continue to follow the series when the second is released in June. The Crooked Sixpence introduces us to Ivy and Seb Sparrow, siblings who are staying with their grandmother when a strange chain of events ends with them standing in the ransacked living room of their now-hospitalized grandmother, staring at a very creepy and threatening message etched into the wall.

We can see you now.

Soon a pair of suspicious-looking police officers show up at their door, rambling about things the children don't understand and threatening them with...toilet brushes? Nothing makes sense, but the children know one thing: they need to run.

So begins Ivy and Seb's foray into the world of uncommoners and the market of Lundinor. They learn that hidden beneath London lies a market full of uncommon goods -- things that seem like ordinary objects but serve peculiar purposes -- and that only a select population of people are uncommoners, those who can use these items for their alternate purposes. This is the part of the book that I both loved and felt was underdeveloped. Bell's world building was super creative, and while I saw some comments online about it being too similar to Harry Potter, I actually felt that it was very different and appreciated the quirkiness of it. I only wish that there was more of an explanation, more time spent revealing the world to our protagonist and therefore to the reader. I thought that the characters could use a bit more substance too and am hoping to see that in the next installment.

In terms of plot, I enjoyed reading about the adventure of the siblings and the people that help them along the way, and I liked that there was a bit of a mystery component as well. Though there was some resolution at the end, Bell left a thread open for the next adventure, and I'm looking forward to seeing the return of some of these characters -- especially our remaining villain.

From a seasoned reader perspective, this was a solid freshman release with some things to be improved in the next, but I could see a middle grade reader really enjoying both the adventure and the world building. I'd recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, The Mysterious Benedict Society, and The Mister Max trilogy.

Bottom-Line Rating: 3/5

  • Title: The Crooked Sixpence (The Uncommoners #1)
  • Author: Jennifer Bell
  • Publisher: Random House, 2017
  • Price:  Pre-order from Amazon for $10
  • ISBN: 0553498436
  • Format: E-book
  • Source: Net Galley