Wild Boy is a debut novel by Rob Lloyd Jones. It was published by Walker on 3th April and the book is 312 pages long. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC for review.
In Victorian London, a young boy covered in hair is recruited for a travelling freak show to be known as Wild Boy. He has nothing else to do apart from be tormented by the other boys he lives with but he also has no choice but to go with the man who come to collect him. Other people see the young boy as a freak due to his physical appearance but he sees more than they do. He sees everything.
When a murder happens, all fingers are pointing to Wild Boy and along with a red-haired acrobat, Clarissa, he ends up on the run from the authorities. The only way to prove his innocence and to solve the mystery of the murderer using his very unique skill set.
What I thought
Wild Boy isn’t something I would have normally taken for review, as it is aimed at a slightly younger audience than what I normally read. However, after loving books such as Pantomime and The Night Circus, I decided that I love these kinds of settings so figured I would give this one a go.
Wild Boy is set in Victorian London, with the young boy covered in hair living in a place where he is constantly belittled and bullied because of how he looks. Instead of rising to the other boys around him, Wild Boy spends his time watching people, learning more about them. One day though, a strange man comes to take him away to a travelling freak show and circus and he has no option but to go with him. He believes it cannot be any worse than what he already has to deal with.
Wild Boy was such a wonderful character. First off, he was abandoned in a London work house and teased beyond belief, then he’s shipped off to a freak show. I couldn’t have felt more sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault he looked the way he did, nor did he have any say over what happened to him. It doesn’t get any better for him either once is he a part of the freak show. He’s alone all of the time, is forced to perform and has no friends which is something he wants more than anything.
It doesn’t take long for the mystery and action to begin in this book, which was a really good thing. Wild Boy manages to stumble across a very important letter which warns of extremely bad things. He, along with acrobat Clarissa, are brought right into the middle of a strange murder mystery and they must both fight to clear their names. I loved the aspects of the circus people, the involvement of an outside organisation and Wild Boy being able to use his special ability to find sets of clues about the murder. This also sparks a strange friendship between Wild Boy and Clarissa as they are forced to work together, even though they dislike one another.
The travelling freak show setting was fantastic, especially when contrasted with the dark, seedy streets of Victorian London. While one setting is colourful, busy and exciting, the other is creepy, dark and quite disgusting. I especially liked Wild Boy and Clarissa’s adventures on the streets of London and where else it led them to. There are dark, damp sewers along with a mansion hiding secret rooms which are filled with bodies and bones. Rob Lloyd Jones certainly makes his world a place to chill you to the bones, and to never want to go there yourself.
Overall, Wild Boy is a fantastic read filled with interesting characters and a great mystery to solve. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.