Reviews /

The Troublemakers

Authored by Tamzin Merchant
Illustrated by Paola Escobar
Published by Penguin Random House Children's UK

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The Troublemakers¬†is the third in Tamzin Merchant’s Hatmakers series, following the adventures of Cordelia Hatmaker.

Set in a magical version of London, maker magic makes the world go round – to clarify, a maker is essentially a creative – but not all who are involved approve. Cordelia has already dealt with those who are against makers, and the rise of the Sensible Party has once again threatened the existence of those who wish to express themselves.

In the background are a rebel group called the Troublemakers, set on disturbing the peace with pranks, theft…and worse. When Cordelia finds herself accidentally involved, she is accused of treason against the king, and has to flee London immediately.

Cordelia is joined by her loyal friends, Sam and Goose, as well as her father Prospero. But it gets worse from here – their plan to find the Troublemakers’ hideout on a mysterious island hits a snag when their boat is plundered, and Cordelia is taken prisoner.

For me, the story really gets going here. We learn more about the Troublemakers, who put me in mind of a Peter Pan/Lost Boys scenario and discover what their motives are. All is not as it seems, and the leader of the Troublemakers, Thorn, is as spiky as her name suggests. She has her own motives for being a Troublemaker, and while you shouldn’t really side with ‘the bad guys’, with Thorn, it’s hard not to.

There is a pace to this story which belies its 400+ pages. There is humour, tension, plotting, mystery, and plenty of twists that leave the reader asking for more. I loved the interaction between Cordelia and Thorn – two strong female lead characters who, on the face of it, couldn’t be more different, but actually find lots in common. There is a subtle political message about the arts and creativity, as well as a clear narrative about standing up for your values and standing up for what is right.

Tamzin Merchant’s writing reminded me of storytellers such as Katherine Rundell and Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, whose writing styles are equally rich, and Paola Escobar’s full page illustrations bring moments of importance into sharp focus.

This book would be a brilliant read-aloud for Year 6 – lots of vocabulary to unpick, fantastic world-building, and wonderful character interactions throughout.