The Foundling by D.M. Cornish
Teen review: This is the first book in The Monster Blood Tattoo Trilogy. It was an extremely good book. The author makes a new world full of monsters that also include problems from real life.
More About the Book: Highly ambitious, Cornish's fantasy debut boasts a glossary/appendix alone that is more than 100 pages long-and it makes for nearly as fascinating reading as the story itself. Rossamend Bookchild ("a boy with a girl's name"), is an orphan living at Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls, where instructors groom the orphans to serve in the Boschenberg Navy and other agencies. One day a stranger with odd eyes arrives ("What should have been white was blood red, and his irises were the palest, most piercing blue.... a leer!") and hires Rossamend as a "lamplighter" for the Emperor. (The boy identifies a leer as a tracker of men and monsters; the glossary offers further chilling details.) En route to his new job, he is misled into boarding a doomed boat, and winds up alone in a world where humans and monsters wage constant war. When a human kills a monster, he gets a "monster-blood tattoo," made from the beast's blood and bearing its likeness. Rossamend's action-packed road story serves chiefly to build and populate Cornish's remarkable new world, the Half-Continent. Its roots were planted in a series of illustrated notebooks the author began while attending art school. His drawings endow both humans and monsters with personality, and detailed maps plus a 16-month calendar year add to readers' sense that this milieu has existed for centuries. From the pre-industrial English feel to the sprawling setting and backstory, this book feels every bit as substantial as its heft implies. Age 10 and up.
Children's Book Council of Australia Children's Book of the Year Award, 2007, NOMINATED FOR AN AWARD