The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

The Luck Uglies, by Paul Durham, was published in 2014 by Harper.

Rye O’Chanter has seen a lot of strange things happen in Village Drowning. She and her friends have grown up on Frowning’s treacherous streets—its twisted rooftops and forgotten cemeteries are their playground. Now a terrifying encounter on the night of the Black Moon has Rye convinced that the monstrous, supposedly extinct Bog Noblins have returned from the forest Beyond the Shale. There’s nobody left who can protect the village. There was once—an exiled secret society so notorious that its name can’t be spoken out loud. The Luck Uglies. As Rye dives into Drowning’s maze of secrets, rules, and lies, she begins to question everything she’s been told about the village’s legend of outlaws and beasts…and what she’ll discover is that it may take a villain to save them from the monsters.

My initial thought after reading The Luck Uglies was “Well, that was strange.” It’s a strange book, with a strange premise and strange, mystic, vaguely scary things happening in the plot. I can’t say that I liked it—but I didn’t dislike it, either.

My main complaint with The Luck Uglies is that the characterization is a little uneven. Rye begins this novel described as an unlucky, slightly clumsy protagonist who is interested in lore and the history of her town and intrigued, rather than repelled, by the mysteries of the woods surrounding them and of the Luck Uglies. Halfway through the book, she suddenly loses her unluckiness and clumsiness—or maybe the tone of the book changes so that it’s not played up as much. Either way, it’s a little jarring.

Uneven characterization aside, the book was enjoyable, if, as I mentioned before, strange. I’m glad that Durham didn’t completely go the awful “aw, the poor villains are just misunderstood!” route, and at least some of the Bog Noblins were suitably scary and awful. I’m sick of the “rich lord oppresses his people and only cares about his own safety” trope, though, and it’s unsettling that all of the soldiers were portrayed to be as terrible as the earl when having some sympathetic to the plight of the villagers would have made things more even overall.

There are a couple more books in this series, but to be honest, I’m not sure if I will read them. I liked The Luck Uglies, but I didn’t find it particularly memorable or intriguing enough to warrant reading more of the series. Generic poor village surrounded by mysterious forest is simply not enough of an interesting world for me to want to explore more of it, Luck Uglies or no.

Rating: 3/5

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Violence, death, and somebody loses an arm.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“What’s wrong, Quinn?” Folly said. “Are you afraid the Luck Uglies might get you?”

“No,” Quinn said quickly. “There’s no such thing as Luck Uglies anymore, right, Rye?”

“Right,” Rye mumbled, not sounding particularly convincing.

“Sure there’s not,” Folly said. “Just like there are no more Bog Noblins.” She squinted and eyed Rye and Quinn carefully. “You’re positive you haven’t seen anything out in the bogs?”

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