Sophie Seacove is a self-proclaimed storyteller. But her own story isn't one she really wants to tell. Having caught the terrible Sea Fever, her parents have abandoned her - well, sold her to be more accurate - and she's on her way across the monster-ridden sea to the terrifying and mysterious mansion on Catacomb Hill. Deep inside, Sophie wonders if her parents didn't just want to be rid of her, with her strange white hair, extra goes, and odd behavior, but she's determined to get her hands on a ticket to the New Continent and rejoin her parents in a new life.
Meanwhile, she's the new bone snatcher, helping old Mister Scree feed the monsters and keep them from destroying the island, avoiding the nasty twins whose violent games are both frightening and disgusting, and staying out of the way of their mother. Then, riding out of the sea, comes Cartwright, the twins' cousin. Sophie is plunged even deeper into a web of lies, secrets, and mysteries until the adventure comes to a climactic finish.
The ending is both gruesome and hopeful; Sophie discovers the New Continent, that thousands of people have set off in search of, is only a cruel dream created by a dead scientist and her parents, along with everyone else, are dead. The insane twins meet a gruesome and violent end and Sophie discovers the secret cure for the monsters and Sea Fever is just a dream. But even dreams have a basis in reality and with Cartwright at her side and the encouragement of Mr. Scree she sets out to tell new stories and show people the monsters are just creatures like them.
This is an odd story, both gruesome and violent in parts, but definitely mesmerizing. It clicks for me as a read-alike for Joan Aiken, but she doesn't get read much anymore. Possibly Series of Unfortunate Events, although it's much more serious and fantastical. In the end, it's its own creation and best for readers who like dark and dramatic stories with an extra dose of scary.
ISBN: 9780399186349; Published 2017 by Dial; Review copy provided by the publisher; Donated to the library