The Borribles is built upon such a strong premise that, even in the hands of a subpar writer, the novel would be worth a read. Borribles are human-like creatures, frozen in a state of permanent childhood. Besides their brilliant wit and extraordinary cunning, the only thing that sets them apart from regular human children is their pointed ears, typically covered up with a woolen cap. Borribles will remain Borribles forever — living in the sewers and abandoned houses of a Victorian-esque London, filching from markets what food and clothing they need to survive — unless they’re caught by the authorities and have their ears clipped, at which point they’ll begin to age and, of course, grow bitter about it.
Need I say more?
Probably not. But I will. Because Michael de Larrabeiti is no subpar writer. He’s a superb craftsmen, an expert builder of sentences and settings and scenes. His descriptions of moldy basements and richly furnished burrows are as achingly alive as his action sequences, which are packed full of skillful catapult-firing and countless clever, daring escapes. And if the scenery doesn’t remind you of something out of a Dickens novel, then the characters — which are plentiful, and all explode off the page — certainly will. With names like Knocker and Spiff and Napoleon Boot, how could they not?
All in all, The Borribles is a fantastic read. A thriller that will now and again delight and surprise you with passages of delicacy and beauty. And if one book isn’t enough for you, you’re in luck — it is, of course, a trilogy.