tunnel . . .
Mathias had to hide.
Valter came round the bend. In the lamplight
he could see the stacked boxes, the barrels and the oilcloth, and he
knew at once that was where they were. He stopped. He couldn't see them,
but he didn't have to. He could breathe them in amongst the brandy and
barrels, the smell of of boy and the smell of girl, close by. He cocked
his head a little to one side and listened. He could even hear the quick
sound of their hearts beating. No one had ever managed to hide from
Through the narrowest crack between a pile
of barrels, Katta watched the dwarf. He stood with his back to her,
holding the lamp up as he searched amongst the boxes on the other side
of the tunnel. She ducked down just before he turned and the light swept
past the place where they hid. She heard him moving things about and
held her breath. But he didn't find them. He walked on. She could hear
the soft sound his coachman's boots made on the earth floor as he went
by. The light of the lamp grew fainter and fainter as he moved away.
Then it was dark again. She let her breath go in a long, quiet whisper
of relief. But now he was between them and their way out. Maybe, she
thought, he would reach then end and come back above ground through the
wood. Either way they were safe for the moment. They would just have to
wait a bit longer. She settled back, and it was at this moment that
Valter's hand came slowly out of the dark and gripped her hair.
The dwarf had crept silently back in the
darkness, the lamp and knife wrapped beneath his thick coat. Now he had
Katta by her long hair, he drew the lamp out again so that he could look
at her face as he pulled her from between the barrels. The boy was on
the ground behind her. He hadn't moved even when she screamed, but he
was looking up at Valter with wide-eyed terror.
This was going to be a good game.
Valter flung Katta way -- it was the boy he
wanted first; he could play with her later. She crashed hard into the
heavy boxes, all the breath knocked from her. The boxes swayed and fell
on her. Pulling the knife from his coat, the dwarf reached down and, in
one quick movement, passed it straight through Mathias's shoulder.
"Where is it?" he said.
He pushed the knife through again. There was
nowhere for Mathias to go. The dwarf dragged him out over the top of the
barrels, threw him roughly to the ground, then sat astride him with the
knife sideways between his teeth and his thumbs pressed hard into
"Where is it?"
Katta's head was ringing. She could see the
dwarf on Mathias. She looked about for something she could use to hit
him with. There was only the oil lamp. The dwarf had put it down on the
ground beside him. She got unsteadily to her feet, picked it up and
swung it as hard as she could. It hit Valter on the back of the head
with a dull crack. The glass shattered, and instantly he was on fire.
The oil from the lamp was thick in his hair; it soaked into his coat. He
leaped up wildly, beating at the flamed with his hands, but he was like
a burning torch. The more he beat at them, the more the flames caught
hold, until he was all fire. Screaming, he blundered blindly into the
walls. The wooden struts that held the roof cracked and gave way where
he it them. Soil began to spill from above, first in small amounts, then
in bucketfuls. Katta could see what was going to happen. The roof was
going to give way. She caught hold of Mathias and began to drag him
away. The flames from the burning dwarf lit up the whole tunnel.
Valter was still screaming as the roof fell.
Lutsmann, and his painted wife, Anna-Marie,
operate a run-down traveling sideshow called Lutsmann's Traveling
Circus. It is not a very famous circus and only draws small crowds in
the towns they visit. One of the performers, Gustav, and old man, is a
conjuror. Gustav's grandson, Mathias, helps the performers in the circus
during the shows. His grandfather has always told him that he knows a
secret, and one day, when he collapses on stage after seeing a man with
a silver-topped cane in the audience.
Gustav is taken to a stable and lain down on
the dirty straw. Gustav awakens and has Mathias bring him his coat. He
retrieves a piece of paper and pops it in his mouth trying to chew it
up, but dies before he can finish. Mathias retreives the piece of a
paper out of Gustav's mouth and secrets it away in his pocket.
Lutsmann and Anna-Marie, being rather poor
and greedy, know that Gustav had a secret and they believe it to be
something that will make them rich. Anna-Marie brings Mathias back to
her cart and starts to interrogate him. She is getting ready to torture
Mathias when the man with the silver-topped cane shows up and takes
Mathias away in his coach.
Mathias, whose head is spinning, doesn't
know what to think. This man, Dr. Leiter, is looking for something and
Mathias figures that he wants the piece of paper that he has in his
pocket. Mathias is determined that he will never give it to Dr. Leiter.
The coach is driven by a small man, a dwarf, with a twisted face. When
wolves attack the coach, the dwarf fights them all off with only his
hands . . . and wins. His name is Valter, and he scares Mathias to
When they stop for the night at an inn,
Mathais meets a young girl who works there named Katta. Katta is
interested in Mathias and who he is. Up in the room, Dr. Leiter takes a
small doll out of a box who seems to be alive and places her on the desk
in the room. He begins asking Mathias questions, and every time Mathias
lies, the doll, Marguerite, touches the red card. Dr. Lieter knows that
Mathias is lying to him when this happens. Just as Valter is hanging him
out the second story window by his neck, Katta entered the room and
Valter drops Mathias to the ground below, breaking some of his ribs.
Katta runs down the stairs and helps Mathias escape into the forest.
They stumble across a band of Burners who
begins trying to get Mathias healed. Koenig, a man in his early
twenties, is interested as to why the children are on the run. Katta,
who had once been hit in the head by a rock thrown by a Burner boy,
hates the Burners. Koenig finds out that Dr. Leiter, who lives in the
port town of Felissehaven, has put out word that he is searching for the
two children. Koenig is determined to find out why.
Koenig decides to travel to Felissehaven and
take both Katta and Mathias with him. Another Burner boy, Stefen, joins
them on their trek. The moment Katta sees Stefan she knows that this is
the boy that hit her with the rock, which dented her skull and tore her
skin and hair away leaving bone exposed. This is why she is forced
to wear a lather cap, and the dent causes he to have seizures. She hates
him. She has dreamed of killing him ever since the rock smashed into her
head. But now she has a new plan. She steals Stefan's knife and is
determined that she will slice his eyes and blind him when they are
Little do they know that Valter has been
tracking the kids since they left the inn. He is determined to return
them to Dr. Lieter and nobody is going to stand in his way.
The Toymaker is a dark fiction book written by Jeremy de Quidt
and illustrated by Gary Blythe. This book is intended for young readers ages
8 and older.
The Toymaker is a very dark piece of fiction. Sure, I have read
some of the books in A
Series of Unfortunate Events, and those books are dark and gloomy
too, but they also have a sense of silliness to them that make them a
little light-hearted and fun to read. It is not so with this book. Let's
take a look at some of the things that make this book so dark.
The Toymaker is a man
who really isn't in the story much. He appears in the Prologue and you
learn how he was able to make really beautiful dolls. But he wanted more
out of them and performed many experiments to make them live. He finally
perfected cutting the heart out of a living bird and hooking it up to
one of his dolls while it was still beating to make the doll come alive.
These living dolls turn out to be quite evil, like
Marguerite. The Toymaker appears later in
the story, but since I don't want to give too much away, I really cannot
discuss him anymore.
Every adult in this book is either greedy,
mean or evil. The only two good people in this story are Mathias and
Katta, and Mathias is injured throughout the entire book while Katta is
firmly set on blinding the boy that caused her to have seizures. Now
that I think about it, maybe Mathias is the only good person in this
story. Katta is just set on revenge, rather than forgiveness.
There is quite a bit of killing in this
story. Not everyone dies, but almost everyone. Is this really a story
that eight year olds should be reading? I wouldn't think so. This book
should definitely be aimed at an older audience, let's say like 12 and
older. Eight year olds don't need to read such a dark and depressing
story as The Toymaker.
Now, for the good parts. The story is
well-written. I did enjoy reading it, but kept waiting for something
good to happen to these kids. I waited . . . and waited . . . and
waited. I was not so lucky, or maybe I should say that Mathias and Katta
were not so lucky. The story kept me involved, but I was left feeling
bad for all the rotten things that happened to the main characters. I
cannot go into too much detail because that would reveal too much about
the story. I just wish the book could have been a little lighter. There
wasn't much fun to be had while reading this book, which is something
that young reader really look for in a story. I felt like I should be
wearing all black while I read this story and should only be listening
to Goth Rock. Bring on the darkness.
The ten or so images by Gary Blythe are
beautifully drawn. I do wish that the cover would have been drawn by the
same artist as the images in the book.
Overall, The Toymaker by
Jeremy de Quidt is a decent story that should have been a lot lighter.
It is pretty heavy stuff for a kid in second or third grade to read. I
would not recommend this book for young readers that young. This is a
middle school book, not an elementary school book. If there is another
book, I just hope the next book is a lot lighter.
I rated this book a 6 out of 10.