Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
The Eyeball Collector

The Eyeball Collector

F. E. Higgins

Square Fish

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Although Hector Fitzbaudly has always lived a plush life on the posh side of the River Foedus, he's yearned to slip away from his comfortable home and see the seedy side of Urbs Umida. Unfortunately, he gets his chance when a blackmail artist confronts his father with a terrible secret from his past, and Hector finds himself penniless and on the streets. He is determined to get his revenge against the man responsible, who has been a pauper, a gentleman, and an Eyeball Collector—stealing jewels from the wealthy to make false eyes to replace his missing one. He is a master of disguise, and a swindler who moves from place to place.
Hector trails the Eyeball Collector to the small village of Pagus Parvus and the foreboding Withypitts Hall, run by the eccentric Lady Mandible who has a strange taste for the macabre. He takes a job incubating butterflies for Lady Mandible, and places himself in the perfect position to take revenge. Hector is so close to the Eyeball Collector, but will he be able to go through with his plan?

Once again, F. E. Higgins takes readers into her world filled with grand balls and hairy-backed beasts, plotting nobility and clever orphans, and creates a spine-tingling story that is her most eerie yet.

USBBY Outstanding International Book, USBBY-CBC Outstanding International Book

EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE


"Tartri flammis!" cursed Hector as his stomach tightened in a knot and his chest jerked violently with every beat of his heart. He rotated slowly on the spot, panting from the chase. His nose tingled with the stench that filled...

Reviews

Praise for The Eyeball Collector

“Ultimately, this story is about not letting oneself sink to the level of one's enemies, but readers will be most taken by the delightfully dense atmospherics fairly dripping off the pages. Readers need not be familiar with Higgins' other books, but the hints dropped in to tie the world together will likely send them hunting for more while awaiting the next. A hyperquel, perhaps?” —Booklist

“Readers with a taste for lurid prose, macabre twists, riddles, exotic poisons, high-society caricatures, murderous schemes and scenes of stomach-churning degeneracy will find some or all of these in every chapter, and though the author trots in multiple characters and references from previous episodes, this one stands sturdily on its own.” —Kirkus Reviews

“It is a dark and diabolical story, set in an alternative universe that is distinctly Dickensian and peopled with Higgins's creepiest cast yet. …Higgins's clever and intricate plot moves along swiftly. Her dark atmosphere is well drawn, with stunning graphic images that are not for the faint of heart. Riddles are laced throughout the novel, with answers appended. …This 'polyquel' will appeal to mature readers who enjoy highly imagined dark stories.” —School Library Journal

“As in companion books The Black Book of Secrets (rev. 1/08) and The Bone Magician, oddities checker the plot; coincidences drive the narrative; threads from previous stories emerge and are rewoven into the fabric. Here the gothic tension is ratcheted even higher… In the end, Hector must choose between his desire for revenge and his father's advice not to become like those who wronged him--but his choice doesn't prevent the climactic orgy of macabre circumstances that will leave readers shivering with pleasurable horror.” —The Horn Book Review

“Higgins has a marvelous flair for the macabre, and her deft pacing escalates to a satisfying crescendo of shivers…. Readers who appreciate the grotesqueries of Cirque du Freaks--but packaged with fine writing and a well-conceived plot--will want to add this to their collection.” —BCCB

“Higgins is a mastermind at creating a creepy world where children still maintain some sense of hope.” —VOYA on The Bone Magician

“The cast of unusual characters and their interrelated stories carry readers along swiftly to an ending that begs for a sequel. Budding fans of Poe or Dickens will be entranced by this atmospheric novel.” —School Library Journal on The Bone Magician

“This 'paraquel'--meaning it takes place in the same world, but follows a different thread--to Higgins' excellent Black Book of Secrets (2007) drips with the same lightly fantastical, heavily Dickensian atmosphere...there is still no end of picaresque charms, creepy turns, and beguiling cast members...” —Booklist on The Bone Magician

“In this standalone companion novel to The Black Book of Secrets, British author Higgins deftly balances the exceedingly harsh circumstances with wry humor, sly commentary on class issues, and a protagonist who has enough wisdom to recognize the fact that his optimism is perhaps misguided but who manages to retain it anyway.” —The Bulletin of The Center for Children's Books on The Bone Magician

“Set in Urbs Umida, where 'merely to be born was considered the first step towards dying', The Bone Magician . . . is a deliciously dark Gothic thriller-cum-Holmesian-whodunit, the writing so atmospheric that the fumes from the noxious River Foedus, where the murder victims end up, seem to seep off the page and swirl round the reader.” —The Telegraph, UK on The Bone Magician

“Young readers with a taste for the macabre will find it deliciously scary.” —The Guardian, UK on The Bone Magician

“Loosely linked by references and cameos to The Black Book of Secrets (2007), this 'paraquel' spins its wheels through the muck-encrusted streets of Urbs Umida, dropping both corpses and more Dickensian-style characters into the mix. Hired by an undertaker for eerie nighttime vigils, young Pin is amazed to see a cadaver supposedly reanimated by magician Benedict Pantagus and his herbalist assistant, Juno. When heavily contrived circumstances throw Pin and Juno together, Pin becomes as determined to discover her secrets as he is to clear the name of his vanished father, who is accused of murder.” —Kirkus on The Bone Magician

“The story's vaguely Dickensian atmosphere is exquisite . . . a smart, peculiarly thrilling book that is sure to appeal to readers ready to sidestep the goody-goody Harry Potters of adventure fiction.” —Booklist, starred review on The Black Book of Secrets

The Black Book of Secrets has it all: danger, adventure, theft, murder, body snatching, poisonings, a touch of humor, and enough mystery to keep you guessing until the very end. . . . An enjoyable story that begs for a sequel.” —PW Children's Bookshelf, "Galley Talk" on The Black Book of Secrets

“Higgins creates a fascinating novel peopled with colorful characters and imbued with clever plot twists . . . and the novel's climax is both excellent and surprising.” —VOYA on The Black Book of Secrets

“Wonderful. Anyone looking for the next big thing has come to the right place. Higgins has created a uniquely grim fantasy world that more than holds its own with Dickens or Peake. Her characters are brilliantly realised and the story grabs at the reader with hooked talons.” —Eoin Colfer on The Black Book of Secrets

“A fantastic debut . . . don't let this book remain a secret!” —John Webb, Waterstones Children's Fiction Buyer on The Black Book of Secrets

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

F. E. Higgins

F.E. Higgins is the author of The Black Book of Secrets and The Bone Magician. As a child, she once saw a ghostly apparition, and ever since then, she has been fascinated by the macabre. Born in London, F.E. Higgins now lives in a haunted house that dates back to the fifteenth century, in a small village in rural Kent, England.

F. E. Higgins

From the Publisher

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