Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!
Obviously, the first thing that caught my eye with this book was the cover. I love to read middle grade fantasy-slash-adventure novels, so an image of two kids riding a giant pig (boar?) piqued my interest. Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath has a really creative premise, featuring the titular character, who has just moved from Illinois to London. When she gets there, a seemingly innocent act (fixing a faucet in her flat's bathroom) leads to her mother being kidnapped and her discovery that the sewers beneath London were built upon a system of magic rivers. Hyacinth's first priority is to rescue her mother, and along the way she comes across a cast of unique characters -- including the pictured magical, giant pig -- some of whom are more nefarious than they first appear to be. Hyacinth also discovers that she has a particularly important role in not only saving her mother, but also saving London, so along the way she learns more about her own family's history with the magic that flows beneath her new city.
I have to admit I struggled with this book a bit and wasn't sure that I was even going to finish it. I didn't really get invested in the story until around the 40% mark, and even after that I found myself with an apathetic attitude towards the plot. What I liked were the characters -- the very charming pig was my favorite -- but Hyacinth herself fell flat for me in terms of development and authenticity. I appreciated the creativity of the premise, but in the end the world-building felt discombobulated and the details were hard to track throughout the story. I wished there had been a bit more background or ground-laying in terms of the magical elements and without spoiling the ending, the resolution couldn't pull it together enough for me to recommend this book to my students or readers of the blog.
Bottom-Line Rating: 2/5
Title: Hyacinth and the Secrets Beneath
Author: Jacob Sager Weinstein
Publisher: Random House, 2017
Source: Net Galley