Malice is one of the most cleverly designed books I have come across. Every aspect of it is engineered to appeal to middle grade readers: the hard plastic 3D cover, the fact that it has pages of comic books interspersed, not to mention that the subject is about a comic book that will drag readers into the fictional world of Malice. Every time I turned my back at school on Friday, I would find a student huddled over the book, caressing the cool cover and asking when I thought I would finish Malice. Student response indicates that this is where publishers should be investing energy.
The plot is almost as clever as the design. “Tall Jake Take Me Away” is a chant that could replace “Bloody Mary” for scary things that kids whisper in the dark. When he does take a child, they end up in Malice, an evil world full of unimaginable monsters. I found the prose sections of the book to be far scarier than the comic pages. Chris Wooding’s descriptions of nightmarish creatures were genuinely creepy. Maybe it’s the 30 year old in me, but I was disappointed when the narrative switched to the comics. The images in my head were so much more frightening than the ink-heavy drawings can deliver.
Malice is the first part of a duology (this term cracked me up. Um, don’t you mean a book and its sequel?!). I will definitely be ordering the sequel, Havoc, when it comes out this month. No doubt, our copy of Malice will be in tatters by then!