In this gripping fantasy novel from Alex Bell, Bess Harper’s grandfather has just died. She misses him dreadfully, as well as the stories that he told her of his travels. He ran an amazing museum – The Odditorium – and Bess worries that Dad and Uncle Norman will want to sell it. Interest in the exhibits has dropped, and with no visitors the future of the museum looks precarious.
Bess finds out that she has inherited the museum, along with an albino alligator, a haunted doll, whispering flowers that are attacking the building and a stack of bills that need to be paid. She is thrilled but also dismayed at what needs to be done. She desperately needs to find magic beans to feed the flowers, as well as ways of tempting in those elusive paying customers.
When she discovers a mysterious, underground train, the Train of Dark Wonders, it seems as though this could be the answer to all of her problems. The train is bound for the land of Halloween Sweets, and Bess becomes a stowaway. She hopes to find a sack of magic beans to appease the whispering flowers. Bess befriends a puppeteer, a fire witch and a violinist, all of whom have gifts and skills that are out of this world.
Together they work to figure out how to stop the Candyman from destroying everything. The Train of Dark Wonders, which reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Alex Bell creates a world that is deliciously dark, filled with characters such as sinister gummy bears, sugar spiders, massive eagles and minty mummies. Will the children be able to work together to achieve their goal? The Train of Dark Wonders will appeal to readers in KS2 who love fantastical adventure stories. It is a delightful tale of friendship and belonging and I cannot wait to read more of the series.
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