Pure Dead Frozen. By Debi Gliori. Knopf. $15.99.
Muddle Earth. By Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell. Delacorte Press. $16.99.
Series creators sometimes go out in a blaze of glory – or, in the case of Pure Dead Frozen, a blaze of Gliori. Other times, they try their hand at something new and merely sputter and fizzle, as in Muddle Earth.
Better things first: Pure Dead Frozen is a gliori-ous conclusion to a six-book series about the thoroughly weird and thoroughly delightful Strega-Borgia family of Scotland, and if you think “gliori-ous” is a bad pun, stop reading right now, because this is an author who explains some of the terms she uses with a section at the end of the book called a “Gliossary.” The themes and characters of the other five Pure Dead books – Magic, Wicked, Brilliant, Trouble and Batty – all get pulled neatly together in Pure Dead Frozen, a nonstop farce in which, among many other things, a demon steals a human child that promptly pees, poops and vomits all over him, including once in a revolving door, as Gliori keeps score: “Babies, 3; Demons, 0.” Let’s see…there’s a wolf invasion of the Strega-Borgia family home, in which the wolves turn out to be good guys; there’s a timely intervention by a relative who has been dead for several hundred years; there’s a premarital split between the local teenage dragon and her intended, the Sleeper (a Loch Ness Monster type), that almost destabilizes the universe by allowing S’tan, master of Hades, to recover a bauble that controls all time; there is the reappearance in all his evil of the black sheep of the family, Don Lucifer di S’Embowelli Borgia, except he’s more of a black rat, having received a rat’s snout in an earlier book, which is removed in this one through the potent but unregulated power of two-year-old Damp Strega-Borgia; there is a hilarious falling-in-love scene that Gliori takes from love at first sight to honeymoon within just a few words while making it thoroughly believable, even though it occurs in the midst of a siege; and there’s so much more than the only way to describe the book fully is to read it from cover to cover. Which you really should do. Debi Gliori is one twisted writer – twisted in all the right directions. The scene in which S’tan is force-fed a substance that renders him docile is priceless. And the one in which the Sleeper functions as a fire hose. And the one in which – oh heck, there are lots of priceless scenes, and all for the price of $15.99.
It is reasonable to have high hopes for anything by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, creators of The Edge Chronicles (seven volumes available in the