Flamboyant, aging actress Lily Larouche returns from a 40-year absence to her ruby palace in the desert with no idea where she has been for the last 40 years and finds a baby in her washing machine with a note that says: “This is Jo. Please take care of her. But Beware. This is a DANGEROUS baby.” Thirteen years later, Jo and her Aunt Lily are still living in the ruby palace and Jo finds herself disappointed that she is not dangerous at all. Though she is bored with her lonely life out in the desert, Jo is unprepared for what takes place the night of her aunt’s annual Christmas party. First Jo notices a Russian colonel, Colonel Korsakov, following her about the house. Then a package containing an odd black box falls out of the sky addressed to Jo from the Order of Odd-Fish. The next morning a three-foot-tall cockroach named Sefino, who is dressed in a suit, is found tied to the ceiling of the basement lamenting what the tabloids have written about him. And to top it all of, the villain-wannabe Ken Kiang chases Jo, Aunt Lily, Colonel Korsakov, and Sefino and tries to kill them by shooting down their plane. The plane is shot down but quickly gobbled by a huge fish and they find themselves safe, if a little mystified, in the belly of the fish. The fish swims them to shore and pukes them out on the beach of Eldritch City. It turns out that Aunt Lily and Colonel Korsakov are knights of the Order of Odd-Fish and Sefino is Colonel Korsakov’s butler. All three had been striped of their memories and exiled from Edritch City, home of the Order of Odd-Fish, thirteen years ago. While they are happy to be back in Eldritch City, all is not well because there was a reason they were exiled and it has to do with Jo’s birth. Aunt Lily tells Jo the story of her birth, and it’s not pretty. For the sake of Jo’s life and for the sake of the entire city, Jo must never tell anyone who she really is. As far as anyone is concerned, Jo is Aunt Lily’s niece and now her squire, simple as that. Jo begins to make friends, go on quests, learn to ride an ostrich, adventure into strange parts of Eldritch City, and much more than she ever imagined. But Jo’s past hangs over her head and her past is about to catch up with her, as pasts often do. Will Jo be able to conquer her fate and save Eldritch City?
Reaction: Crazy. Zany. Wacky. Any other synonym of these words. I was drawn to this book by the cover, which is a very accurate representation of the story, then intrigued by the front flap summary. This book is so very hard to explain because it is just that weird. I’ll give you a couple of examples. First, Colonel Korsakov: “My digestion…It whispers secrets and instructions to me. And this very moment, Miss Larouch, my digestions advises us to be on guard” (5). Ken Kiang on becoming evil: “He devoured books about evil; he interviewed terrorists, serial murderers, and dictators; he dabbled in strange and wild diabolisms, slit the throats of shrieking beasts on stone altars in far-off lands, drank kitten blood, and sold his soul no fewer than twenty-three times to any supernatural being who cared to bid on it” (51). And the traditional knight’s garb of the Great Feast of the Odd-Fish: “All the knights, including Aunt Lily and Colonel Korsakov, had changed into ceremonial feast robes of gold, scarlet, and blazing purple, festooned with epaulettes, sashes, shining spurs, an ornamental sword, a bejeweled bib, and a trailing cape that looked like a doily gone berserk for seven feet. Crowning all was a towering turban clasped with a ruby in the shape of a fish” (83). Everything was elaborately explained — location, food, clothing, weapons, everything. Sometimes it lead to the hilarity of the novel, sometimes I felt it dragged the book down. For example, during the description of the dueling, one of the dueling traditions is hurling insults before the duel begins. The insults are funny but long, and I thought there was maybe one or two paragraph-long insults too many.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Order of Odd-Fish. I liked the main story-line: a young girl learning about her past, finding herself, proving herself, overcoming adversity, and saving the city. I liked Jo. She had guts and tried her hardest to do what she thought was right even if that meant not always following the rules. She also has an adventurous side that I envy. I would not have had the guts to do some of the things or go some of the places Jo did. The book was just really fun because of the zany hilarity in Kennedy’s writing style. Besides the sometimes excessive description my only other complaint would be with the length. The novel was a bit long and I thought there were some things that could have been cut or cut-back to keep the momentum going. It is very hard to do The Order of Odd-Fish justice, so just check it out for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Read-a-like: I don’t think there is anything that can compare to this book! :)