Idris Limpet lives in coastal Westgate, a town in the sinking island of Lyonesse. In times past, walls were built around the island to keep the sea out, but in places it is now crumbling. There are also deep wells in the town of Wellvale where poisonous water erupts periodically, gradually killing parts of the island. From those wells, monsters are fished out that have surprising properties: if they dry out they become highly flammable fuel. The monsters are intelligent, and have unusual mental and physical powers.
Idris knows little of this until he is branded a Cross — a mix of monster and human — and slated for death. A stranger rescues him and brings him to his castle in Wellvale. The rescuer is Ambrose, a magician, who at first Idris takes for an enemy, but soon comes to see as his rescuer and friend. On the way to Wellvale they are joined by a girl Idris’ age, Morgan. The youngsters are to be trained as Monster handlers, something Idris proves good at, but his true destiny is far more important and dangerous.
This is the strangest version of the Arthurian legends I’ve ever read, based on versions told in the Isles of Scilly off the southern coast of England, the home of the author. It seems like a mix of those old stories with elements from Harry Potter and movies like “Monsters, Inc.,” an uneasy mix that works sometimes, but pulled me out of the story at others. Still, the writing is good, and I enjoyed the characters and setting. I will probably look for the sequel, thus far there’s only been one.