cover image Gloom Town

Gloom Town

Ronald L. Smith. Clarion, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-328-84161-2

In this quirky dark fantasy set in a small seaside town known as Gloom, a boy, desperate to help his mother pay the rent on the cottage they share, takes a job as a gentleman’s valet, only to discover that his frightening new master may be an ancient inhuman entity with a sinister agenda. Rory, 12, who is biracial, isn’t sure what to make of bald-headed, black-bearded Lord Foxglove and his butler Malvonius, or their strict rules and his contract’s “upon penalty of death” clause, but the pay is too good to pass up. After Rory overhears a conversation between Foxglove and his colleagues that reveals an upcoming “great harvest,” he discovers his predecessor’s grizzly fate. To prevent calamity from befalling the entire town, Rory and his best friend, red-haired fledgling witch Izzy, must find a way to thwart Foxglove’s plans. This atmospheric tale by Smith (The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away) conjures up a seaside setting full of secrets and long-lost legends. Though its resolution arrives abruptly—with last-minute revelations that leave the door open for future installments—the intriguing characters, eerie moments, and lurking peril prove a winning combination. Ages 10–12. [em]Agent: Adriann Ranta Zurhellen, Foundry Literary + Media. (Feb.) [/em]