Edgar Trunk is a ten year old orphan living in a horrid sludge factory. He has never been outside, not that this matters much since the grounds outside the factory are dark and rotting, as awful and lifeless as the factory innards. One day, he hears a mysterious knocking that seems to call him out of his tiny cell-like room. What he finds out about the factory and its other inhabitants changes the course of his life forever. This novel introduces us to the quiet but mysteriously important Edgar. He lives in a mysterious and magical world that is like and, at the same time, unlike our own. Did you notice that I've said "mysterious" lots of times so far? That's because this story is full of mysteries.
As far as the story goes, we find out enough about Edgar early on to figure out we want to pay attention to him. One great thing that happens is that he gets out of his cell - er, room - early on, and so the adventure begins quickly. Lots of running around and being chased ensues. Some exciting close calls happen to our hero, and all this keeps the book moving along. Another good thing about the story is that most of the characters are fairly well developed. I especially enjoyed Mr. Harold and Mrs. Margaret. When I am reading a story, if I really get "into" it, or if it is well written, I "hear" the voices of the characters in my head. I could totally hear these two characters. I also heard Sebastian pretty well and Edgar's mean Uncle Warnock. Unfortunately, I couldn't hear the main character, Edgar, very well at all. I suspect that this is because in this book, lots of things happened to him, but he didn't really do much. I am sure he will become much more active in future books. (This is the first of a series.)
The writing reminded me of what I call the "modern gothic" children's novels. The "Series of Unfortunate Events" books are the most famous of these kinds of books. This book is like those in that it is dark and kind of scary and the hero is a child that is in serious danger most of the time. Some of the "mysteries" were a little frustrating for me because they were not explained enough to satisfy me. Now, you might be saying, "But Mr. Flores, that's why they're mysteries," and you might even throw in a little "Duh!" if you were a disrespectful sort of child. But when certain of the mysteries were finally revealed or explained, I was a little underwhelmed. However, that is not to say I didn't like the book. I did like it! And there were at least three passages where the writing made me practically sigh with pleasure (my favorite being the second paragraph of Chapter 8)! But I'm a grown-up, so sometimes I get all caught up in that sort of stuff.
If you like "dark, dangerous" stories like the "Series of Unfortunate Events", you should like this one. The worst part about it, of course, is having to wait for the next one to come out!