The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (A Fiendish Arrangement)
by Alexandra Bracken
Prosperity Redding was not only cursed with a terrible name, he was unfortunately dubbed the black sheep of the family almost from birth. Steadily standing in the shadow of his vivacious twin sister Prue, nothing Prosper does ever seems to work out. He’s picked on at school and his family falls into two categories : those who prank him mercilessly or those who outright ignore his existence. As most 12-year old boys go, the transition from child to young man is never easy, but Prosper is scraping the bottom of the barrel for self-confidence and friendship.
Growing up in the small town of Redhood doesn’t make life any easier. As a member of the Redding family, Prosper should have it all. The family lineage dates back to the town’s conception and as the decades have passed into centuries, the Reddings have grown more prosperous than anyone else around. But as their wealth grew, so did their infamy, and not everyone in town loves the Reddings as much as they love themselves.
After being summoned to their grandmother’s home, the twins Prosper and Prue are confused to find nearly all of their family members in attendance; the exceptions being their own parents who are out of town working for their charity organization. Forced into prim and proper attire, the twins are then veritably pushed down into the dungeons of the family manor, where a strange book and their grandmother are waiting for them. What Prosper sees in the book frightens him and those around him, and in the ensuing chaos that follows, a stranger spirits Prosper away.
Upon awakening in the strange man’s equally mysterious home, Prosper meets Nell, a curious young girl who claims to have magical abilities in the area of spells and witchcraft. He also meets a man who claims to be his Uncle Barnabas, a man previously disowned from the family for various reasons and whom Prosper has never met. But the most interesting of those who he meets that day is Alastor, a four-thousand-year-old fiend who is. . . . currently residing inside of Prosper.
The only thing on Alastor’s mind is pure destruction, primarily of the Redding family who tried so many years ago to deceive and then banish him. According to Alastor, the Redding family reneged on a contract where after promised health and wealth they would then give their souls to the fiend in eternal servitude, and now he’s here to collect – in full. Having bound himself to Prosper, the fiend delights in tormenting his reluctant host day and night, showing him success and then tearing it away or lacing it with pain and guilt. Prosper finds himself torn between craving a chance to shine for once in his life, and knowing deep in his heart the differences between right and wrong. With the prospect of a contract binding himself to the fiend looming as his 13th birthday draws ever nearer, Prosper Redding is tangled in a terrible web of lies and despair.
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding is the newest mid-grade novel by acclaimed author Alexandra Bracken. Known for her ingenuity and spark in the mid-grade to YA realm of books, Bracken tells stories that drop readers right into the thick of it — whether it is a teenage girl swept into foreign lands of both past and present with a handsome time-traveler as her guide or a farmboy pulled into intergalactic wars amongst the stars, each novel is tailored specifically for readers who love new worlds and fantasy, and who love strong and capable characters.
Giving The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding a 4.5 star rating, I recommend it to lovers of the dark and twisty, and for anyone who loves rooting for the underdog. The humor in this novel is clever and well-received, providing a touch of relief when situations get a tad bit too complex or tightly wound for younger readers. While the prospect of a fiend invading your ever sense and sensibility might sound frightening to some, the story is appropriate for readers as young as the age of ten; the themes and situations never reach a level of unsuitable terror. The characters are relatable and fittingly described, and both male and female readers alike will find someone to call a hero. One thing I have always loved about Bracken’s books are that determined and compelling characters are introduced to the reader, and regardless of the character’s age, they are never afraid to push forward and show their versatility and perseverance. As a mother to a mid-grade child, showing characters of both the male and female sex who are equals in both intelligence and strength is of great importance to me, and Bracken always seems to hit the mark. Readers who enjoyed books such as Joshua Khan’s Shadow Magic series or Neil Gaiman’s Corraline will revel in this novel with equal measure.