[LISTENED TO: August 2016] Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
I had grabbed this book for Clark because it looked kind of interesting. He said he wanted to read it but hadn’t gotten around to it before we left for vacation. So instead, I grabbed the audio book for us to listen to.
The book itself had a lot of interesting illustrations by Will Staehle which were obviously not present in the audio book. Often times the audio book version of a book is a bit more fun because of the delivery, but I feel like we really missed out without the pictures. Indeed, the blurb for the book really talks up the design of it:
The first volume in a delightful new series, this middle grade adventure features an oversized hardcover format, gorgeous two-color illustrations on every page, and a lavish two-column turn-of-the-century design. We guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like it!
And I still haven’t.
The is the story of Warren the 13th. He is the 13th in a line of 12 previous Warrens, all of whom were managers of the Warren Hotel. Designed by Warren the First generations ago and built by Warren the Second, the hotel was a thriving business until the last few years. Warren the 13th’s father died when Warren was just seven years old and the hotel was taken over by Warren’s Uncle Rupert, a lazy slothful man who has allowed the hotel to slip into disrepair.
All of the employees and residents have left except for the chef and Warren’s tutor. And of course Warren. Now aged 12, Warren wants more than anything to keep his family legacy successful. As such, he is now the lone bellhop, valet, waiter, groundskeeper, and errand boy of his family’s ancient hotel.
By the way, the illustrations (which you can see online) make Warren look like a toad. And I would hate that except that that’s how he is described in the book. For no reason that I can see, Warren is a frog boy. Not just an ugly kid, but a noticeably frog shaped boy. What the heck? (Aside from the fact that the illustration is cool, I have to wonder if it came first).
As the book opens, Warren is on the roof trying to chase the birds from the chimney. And then a car pulls up–something that hasn’t happened in ages,. The new guest comes wrapped in bandages like a mummy. He doesn’t speak–communicating only in business cards with pictures on them (fwip). In his mind, Warren calls him Paleface, but in the true Warren Hotel tradition, he is nothing but polite to this unusual stranger. Paleface takes a room but Uncle Rupert (who has been using the log book as a doodle pad) does not log which room it is.
Four months earlier, Warren’s Uncle married a horrible woman named Aunt Annaconda. I hated this name when I heard it aloud, because it is so obvious. I wish it was Anna Conda at least, but no. In addition to being generally rude and nasty (except to Rupert, who is madly in love with her and will never believe that she could ever do anything mean) she also makes Warren do all of the work, including feeding them their meals. On top of that, she insists that he only eat porridge, even though the hotels’ chef is masterful.
Annaconda is intent upon finding the All-Seeing Eye, some kind of special artifact that no one else knows anything about. Annaconda spends all of her time digging up parts of the hotel trying to find this item. So in addition to basic hotel maintenance, Warren also has to repair all of the destruction his Aunt does (he is really quite handy).
So clearly this is all over the top (just trying to imagine Warren doing all of the things he odes in a day is mind-boggling). I realize the book is for children, but everything is so exaggerated, the bad people are so bad, Warren does so much, that it was hard to suspend by disbelief.
Eventually, (this seemed to take a really long time of Annaconda digging things up) we meet a new character. A girl named Petula, who is an apprentice witch, comes to help out Annaconda. She can perform some minor spells and move through walls. Cool! Annaconda asks her to follow Warren because she is sure he knows something about the All Seeing Eye.
Some clues arise and then Annaconda calls her sisters–part of the Triangle Coven–to come help her. I can’t decide the sisters’ names are clever or just obvious. However, because the sisters fully intend to reap all of the benefits of the All Seeing Eye, they can’t keep their mouths shut about it. And soon enough the hotel is beset upon by every nitwit and ne’er-do-well who wants to get the magical item for himself.
There’s some good fun in this section–actually just having new characters felt like a huge relief. I especially like the odd captain who talks like a pirate and acts like a pirate but swears he isn’t one.
But every other guest is worse than the previous–demanding things, insulting everyone, bossing Warren around and tearing up the place looking for the Eye (even though none of them know what it is looks like or what it does). Warren is of course professional through all of this.
Eventually Warren learns a bit about the All-Seeing Eye and realizes that is Annaconda finds it they are all in danger. Indeed, if any of the guests finds it, Annaconda will surely use her powers to take it. So Warren must find it first. And there is a riddle that must be solved for it to found.
Anyhow, I don’t want to make it sound like the book was without fun. There’ s a strange character who lives in the basement. The way this character communicates is really fun, although frankly, I could have used a lot more information (and maybe even a few more scenes) about him.
I also enjoyed Mr Friggs, Warren’s “tutor.” He has been in the hotel forever and meets with Warren regularly. Warren goes there with questions about various things and Friggs is happy to help.
Another fascinating character is Chef Bunion, a marvel of a chef who, used to feeding just a few people, is able to make a fabulous meal when the house is overrun with guests. He also seems to be able to do 8 things at once. And he makes great cookies.
The near-the-end of the story was pretty cool, too. One of the characters is double-crossing someone and another character is not only a surprise help, but a huge one at that. But the actual ending dragged quite a bit.
The hotel has more secrets than the All Seeing Eye and when the big one is revealed, its pretty wild. But once the secret was out, it took too long to do anything with it.
And then in the end, we know that Warren could never hurt another person, even a bad person. But when the bad person is not hurt by Warren and then that person then revitalize and attacks anew, I just wanted the story to be over.
There is meant to be another book (or more) in this series, but I’m not all that interested in reading them,
Instead of the illustrations, we had a reading by Kevin T. Collins. But I found this reading to be unusual as well. Collins spoke in a deliberately slow, almost over-enunciating and mildly dramatic style. This worked really well in some instances but mostly seemed to drag the story a little bit. And while this is nitpicky, I didn’t like the way he whisper-screamed whenever Annaconda called Warren’s name. It sounded too whisper-scream rather than real scream. But those are minor quibbles, otherwise the reading was decent.
I didn’t realize that this was put out by Quirk books, a publisher whose books I have really enjoyed in the past. But overall, this one was rather disappointing.