Suri, an impetuous orphan, travels around with a caravan, hiding from the caravan leader. Her fellow travelers try to convince her to settle down into an acceptable job, but she is determined to become a monster tamer. Until then, she scrapes by, begging food from vendors and telling tales to the locals for coins. But, the caravan has recently acquired its very own monster to sell to the prince and Suri thinks she might be able to tame it.
Suri is an engaging, adorable heroine. She has the right combination of sassiness, innocence, and earnestness. I found myself rooting for this independent, gypsy-like girl after only a few pages. While the tale could have dipped into the maudlin by focusing on Suri’s lack of home or family, it skips around all that with a dismissive wave, focusing instead on Suri’s sense of adventure and cleverness. This book introduces us to the characters and sets an interesting stage, but I imagine the character development will mostly occur later in the series.
The tale hits a good interest level for the intended age group with just a hint of scary provided by the monsters. The focus is more on fun and fluffy than any kind of horror story. The monsters we meet are intriguing and set the scene nicely for Book 2. While there has to be a more than average suspension of disbelief, the young girl taking on the world story would be attractive to elementary and early middle school students.
The artwork captured my attention even before I read the story. Suri is incredibly cute with giant eyes and a tousled mane. Her Eastern European looking clothes are in remarkable shape considering her lack of a permanent home. Her spunky attitude is coupled with expressive faces. The monsters also are interesting to behold, especially the cat people. The entire book has a dreamy, fairy tale feel with blues, pinks, and tans painting the scenes and characters, but the tale is spiced by the sometimes impish and humorous nature of the characters.
While it may be a bit simple for advanced readers, this cute, fun book seems set to be a hit with the late elementary crowd. I am intrigued to see where the series might lead in future books.