Title: Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things |Author: Matilda Woods |Publisher: Philomel Books | Genre: Middlegrade | 256 pages
I have ordered this book after having it recommended by a fellow middlegrade blogger. I loved the premise and was absolutely sure that this would be the book for me.
In the city of Hodorf, the Tattercoats live by a strict code. Only steal what you need, don’t leave a trace of yourself behind, and if another Tattercoat is in trouble, you must always help them out. These are the rules that guide Nim’s life as she and her rat, Nibbles, live on the streets and the rooftops of the only place she’s ever called home. So when a new boy named Otto comes to town and gets caught up in the devious plottings of a former Tattercoat who’s fallen from grace, Nim takes it upon herself to come to Otto’s rescue. But Otto isn’t the only one who needs help: The days in Hodorf have been growing progressively shorter and darker since the legendary sundragons went extinct. The air is getting colder, hope is waning, and it won’t be long until the freeze grows so bone-deep that the chimneys the Tattercoats use for warmth at night will no longer suffice. With things growing more dire, Nim sets off into the murky woods surrounding the city, searching for Otto–and for answers.
Right from the start I have to say, that I was unfortunately rather disappointed by this book. While it has two of the things that I absolutely love – a cold, snowy setting and characters on rooftops – it was just not what I had expected at all.
The book is about the young boy Otto who just arrived in the ever so cold village of Hodelsdorf with his mother, a coatmaker. When she vanishes Otto has to live on the streets, fending for himself. Otto is new to the world of street urchins and tattercoats, which seems to describe his whole personality. He is a good kid but his actions just seems to revolve around his missing mother. He has morals but they don’t really seemed to be so much as part of his personality as stemming from uncertainty. I was also rather surprised that Otto was not really the main character of the story. Sure, he was an important part of it but to me it seemed that after the first few chapters the story focussed more on the second protagonist – a girl named Nim.
Nim seemed a little more fleshed out to me than Otto, with her love for her rat, her goals and wishes and loyalty to the Tattercoats and their rules. She had a routine, a life on the roofs of Hodeldorf and most of the story was told from her perspective.
I think the whole problem that I had with the book or that the book had itself was that it wanted to be too much and ended up being too little. There was too much going on, not even in the way of subplots but in general. There was the factory, vanishing children in the factory, the roofs, the tattercoats, the forest, magic, giants, witches, wolves and even a sundragon. It sounds nice if you read it like that but in the end for me it just felt like the author really wanted to write an interesting story and got lost in all the details. I think I would have enjoyed it more if there would have been more focus on two or three things and those fleshed out properly instead.
I must give credit for the overall atmosphere though. I loved the descriptions of the cold and how real it seemed and the overall writing style was okay too. Even though the plot and the characters were not after my own heart, I still got ahead nicely and finished the book rather fast.
All in all I’m sorry to say that I was rather disappointed. There is surely still potential for this author since the overall idea was nice and the writing good, just a little too meagre plot- and characterwise for my tastes.