The Literary Horizon: The Hunchback Assignments, Jane Bites Back

Today’s Literary Horizon deals with reimaginings of literary classics for young adults and adults.

The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade


The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania’s efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It’s up to them to save their country.

via Amazon

I’m always interested in reimaginings of fairy tales and classical literature, although The Hunchback Assignments appears to take great liberty with Quasimodo. It certainly takes a bit of creative license to turn a French hunchback into an agent of the British Empire! Spies, subterfuge and steampunk all sound like ripe topics for an interesting story, especially the struggle between the Permanent Association and the Clockword Guild. I hope Octavia (what a wonderful name!) is as much a main character as Modo–she sounds interesting. Of course, my main concern is that this is a young adult novel aimed at twelve and up, but I’m not too concerned- I still want to read Leviathan very badly.

Reviews are scant, but positive. The Written World is mostly positive, although she mentions that she found an earlier work by Slade, Jolted, superior. Novels Now’s review is absolutely glowing. All in all, it sounds like it delivers.

The Hunchback Assignments was released on September 22.

Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford


Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it’s because she’s the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

via Amazon

There are two things I’m starting to grow tired of–vampires and novels adapted from Jane Austen. The moment I saw the novel Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, I was, to be completely honest, a little disappointed. While I’m sure the novel isn’t as bad as it sounds, the idea of marrying two major literary trends together felt a little cheap. However, Jane Bites Back sounds like a wonderful opportunity to skewer both genres in one go. It also sounds like it makes a wonderful commentary on reusing classics–hopefully, there will be a reference to Quirk Classics in there! The fact that Lord Byron is the vampire who turned her makes me laugh out loud. However, the addition of suitors makes me wonder if Jane Bites Back isn’t going to be a bit more conventional than satiric when it comes to romance.

The only review I can find is the Publishers Weekly review that brought Jane Bites Back, which finds it to quite a funny satire. The first two chapters are available via Scribd, if you’d like to read them. I myself am abstaining.

Jane Bites Back will be released December 29.

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