Pure Dead Magic
by Debi Gliori
Frequent reviewers of books and movies, like me, delight in making capsule-summaries of a whole book or movie in a single sentence, especially in the format "X meets Y in Z"--extra-especially if the likeness is only a passing one. I am guilty of this, so I suppose I shouldn't complain that this book quotes two such off-center summaries--TWO!!!--on its covers. Put together, they almost halfway give you an idea what the book is like. Booklist calls it "Harry Potter meets Lemony Snicket in a high-tech setting." And Kirkus Reviews, Starred, adds, "Mary Poppins meets the Addams Family in a nonstop farce." Can both of these be true? And if so, what could it mean???
The title comes from the popular idiom of Glasgow (Scotland) speech, where the author is apparently living a Scot's life in an Italian family. And the story is pretty much her family's story, I think, only with magic and gangsters added. It's an interesting combination.
The Strega-Borgias are a whopping (ahem) Italian family living in a 600-year-old, somewhat run-down, Austrian-style fairy-tale castle, next to a sea loch in the Scots highlands. The place is therefore called StregaSchloss.
As the curtain goes up in Pure Dead Magic, the father (Signor Luciano Strega-Borgia) has been kidnapped by his mafioso half-brother, Don Lucifer di S'Embowelli Borgia, and is being held in a palazzo in Italy while his family thinks he has abandoned them. Don Lucifer is a nasty piece of work, but mainly he wants Luciano to sign over custodianship (is that a word?) of the family fortune which Luciano's 12-year-old son, Titus, will inherit when he turns 13. And then of course, he intends to have Titus whacked so he, Don Lucifer, can claim the fortune for himself and get the nose job of his dreams.
To further his plans, he sends his consigliere, Pronto (that's his name), to StregaSchloss to whack Titus and anyone else who happens to be handy. Pronto hires three hit-men in black suits and one hit-man in a head-to-toe rabbit costume who goes by the moniker Attila the Bun (!!!), and together they storm the castle. They haven't reckoned, however, on the fact that Titus is a 12-year-old computer geek, or that his 10-year-old sister Pandora has stolen a couple of disposable wands from her mother (who is studying to be a witch), or that the nanny Mrs. MacLachlan has a make-up case that combines magic with high-tech, or that the butler Latch dreams of being a swashbuckling hero, or that the French cook (Marie Bain) is a nervous wreck whose cuisine could be a deadly weapon all by itself.
Least of all, have the hit men (and hit bunny) reckoned on the fact that StregaSchloss has a low-tech security system that includes the talking rat Multitudina (mother of multitudes), the lipstick-wearing talking spider-with-attitude Tarantella, a hungry moat crocodile named Tock, a leathery griffin (who can turn to stone and back again) named Sab, an adolescent dragon named Ffup, and a ravening yeti on a permanent bad-hair-day, named Knot. And that everyone is too concerned about rescuing the baby of the family, 14-month-old Damp, from cyberspace (where, along with 13 baby rats, she has been shrunk and e-mailed by accident) to give more than passing notice to four men and a giant bunny armed with semi-automatics.
The result is an adventure that combines the internet with wands, spells, mythical beasts, wacky plastic surgeons, and the denizens of Rent-a-Thug.
Look out for the sequel, Pure Dead Wicked.
Recommended Age: 12+
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