Smudge's Mark by Claudia Osmond
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is one of those "orphan-who's-not-really-an-orphan-but-has-a-HIGHER PURPOSE" books. You know right away that there's something wrong with Simon, since his grandfather's nuts, the housekeeper's an incredibly ugly tyrant and he can't remember anything earlier than seven months before. On his birthday he's given a "twencil" (a twig/pencil) that enables him to do some interesting things with his drawings; and, of course, when he's sent away to a hellish orphanage, you just know that he'll somehow find his true identity, save the girl/world and generally battle evil and Do Good.
The characters really were stock characters: the missing/unknown brother, the timid Edmund Pevensie-like friend, the dual roles of the school's head and the grandfather, etc.. The plot was equally stock, with nothing there that didn't feel slightly recycled.
The ending hints at this being a series, because that's the way these types of books are being written these days. It's not enough to write a good work of fantasy, you've got to write a series. In my opinion, with some judicious editing, this could have been a good stand-alone book (some of the passages just go on too long, and there are times I thought "enough, get to the point"; cutting those and wrapping up the action in one volume would have made this unique).
ARC provided by publisher.
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