05 July 2011

Panjandrum by J.J. Telly

When thirteen-year-old Gelsem is kidnapped in the night from her peaceful home on Level Gee, the timid girl is shocked to wake up on Level Pee, the 'penitentiary'. Stuck in a foreign realm populated entirely by criminals, Gelsem manages to befriend a group of pre-teen revolutionaries, among them a young Giantess and a boy harboring a great secret.

In order to escape, the young teens must enlist the help of the Panjandrum, a professional thief turned accidental monarch and prisoner to the Level's bureaucratic elite. Desperate to find a way home to her family, Gelsem is forced to learn some hard truths about trust and friendship while dodging conniving politicians, mind-controlling spirits and a murderous sculptor determined to turn all of the children on the Level into macabre statuary.

Thus begins Gelsem's extraordinary adventure in the first book of the Aerolith Adventure series, Panjandrum.

This review copy was received in exchange for an honest review.

Where was this book ten years ago? I know that I would have been all over this.  It probably would have given me nightmares, too, but I would have loved this book to pieces.  Even now, just shy of an official adult, it really connects with my not-yet-buried side of childhood pleasures. Sometimes I just love a good, out-of-this-world, simple read.  And Panjandrum and J.J. Telly really delivered.

At first, it took a bit for me to get into it.  It seemed too otherworldly for me to grasp into my werewolf-and-vampire-hardwired mind. The simple pleasure of reading a clever children's story eventually took over however and I disappeared into it hours at a time. There was something compelling about Telly's creative interpretation of the alphabet.
See, the Levels are not just letters as we know, like: P, G, and H.  It's phonetically written and it's really clever!  So it would go: Pee, Gee, and Haitch.  Then there's Eff (F), Ess (S), Que (Q)…Isn't that clever?!  The amount of detail that goes into the story is awe inspiring. 
I love the descriptions, too.  There's something about it that pulled me in.  Maybe it was because it was so unlike any style you see today in YA lit.
I loved this passage especially:
And Portentia contained the most wonderful laugh.  It was the kind that billowed out like a gale, flooding the room.  You could hear this laugh on a muggy, crowded bus and no matter how grumpy you were, the laugh would force you to crack a smile.

It was the kind of laugh that stole your sadness from you, though you didn't feel like you'd lost anything at all.  Her laugh was a clever thief Bellamy could respect.
Excerpted from the paperback edition, page 124

is a clever story with likeable characters, a thrilling adventure, chilling subplots, and a detailed setting.  I cheered Gelsem and the Parasitic Punks all the way.  I seriously needed this ten years ago, though.  It would have really spiced up my pitiful literary stack at the time.

Book Info:
  • pages – paperback, 288
  • published – December 2010
  • publisher – self-published
  • genre – Middle grade > action & adventure
  • received via – author :)
  • rating – 4/5
  • series – Aerolith Adventures
    • Panjandrum
    • Schismarch (?)
    • Bludder (?)