Arthur Slade’s latest YA novel, The Hunchback Assignments, is steampunk-tacular.
Modo, a disfigured hunchback, is born with a strange gift. He can twist his appearance to mirror any imaginable person. Modo can hide behind the countenance of a prince or pickpocket, if only for a few hours. His true face, the one reflection he avoids at all costs, masks a heroic figure.
The enigmatic Mr. Socrates rescues Modo as an infant and trains him as an agent of a shadowy Victorian era organization. Modo’s assignments thrust him into danger at every turn and pitt him against the mechanized villainy of a mad scientist. A monstrous enemy threatens the British Empire, and Modo must use every ounce of wit and skill he possesses to combat the forces of evil.
Modo not only faces physical peril, he also wrestles with his feeling for Octavia, a beautiful and compassionate fellow agent. Although Modo longs to accept Octavia’s affection, he finds it impossible to reveal his true face. He dreams of becoming the handsome knight who can win her heart. She longs to know the real man behind the mask.
In the Hunchback Assignments, suspense builds steadily up to the ripping climax. Throughout the story, the audience feels Modo’s heartache and witnesses his courage. After the final scene, the reader will be reluctant to leave his side.
Assignments is a satisfying brew infused with crisp writing and high flying action. It reads as though Slade threw the machinations of a 007 caper, the intrigue of a Young Sherlock Holmes adventure, the gothic romance of a Victor Hugo tale, the clever gadgetry of an H.G. Wells yarn, and the thrilling horror of a penny dreadful into a blender and pressed pulse.
Yes, it’s that good. Read it.
While the gadgets in The Hunchback Assignments are steam powered, my Sticky Toffee Pie is steam-cooked. Fortunately, it’s much easier to make than the Sticky Toffee Pudding of Victorian times.
Sticky Toffee Pie
2 14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 9 inch graham cracker pie crust
1 8 ounce container of Cool Whip
English Toffee Bits (for garnish)
Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a glass dish (at least one quart in size, but small enough to fit into your crockpot). Cover dish with foil. Place in a (at least 3/12 quart size) crockpot slow cooker. Add water around (not inside) the glass dish so the water level matches the level of the milk in the dish. Cover the crock pot. Cook 8 to 9 hours or until the mixture is the color of peanut butter.
Once mixture is cooked, pour into a bowl and stir. Once whisked, pour mixture into crust. Chill and top with Cool Whip and toffee bits.