Minerva and Max McFearless accidentally discover what their father, in an effort to protect them, has been hiding for years -- they are the youngest in a long line of monster hunters. Though they promise him they will not dabble in the dangerous art of monstermination, they study behind his back.
And it's a good thing that they do -- two years later, their father is kidnapped by the Big Bad of all monsters. With the help of Ms. Monstronomicon, a living, talking, biting book and Mr. Devilstone, a crabby, one-eyed talking coyote they set out to rescue their father and save the world.
As a physical object, McFearless is very attractive. It's printed on thick glossy paper and has illustrations -- both drawings and photographs -- on every page.
The photographs are especially fun, done in sepia tones and featuring the author, his (now ex) wife, and in a few instances, his father. (The models for Minerva and Max may be relatives as well, but I'm not sure about that.) Every time a different monster is mentioned, the corresponding page from Ms. Monstronomicon is featured, with a description, an illustration, and an icky recipe for a defense potion.
As attractive as the book is, it did feel a bit gimmicky to me.
As you probably have guessed from the title, the book is full of alliteration and gothic-type description that more than occasionally reaches the over-the-top point:
The sky was an awful black, swirling with sinister, grayish clouds. Heavy sheets of rain fell hard upon the rooftop of our home. The surrounding trees cast menacing shadows and would sometimes lose their gnarled, fingerlike branches as they eerily danced to the howling winds.
Related to that is my main problem with the book: The writing itself bogs the story down -- I think some heavy (really, really heavy) editing would have helped.
Younger readers tend to glaze over when there are eight sentences of description where two would do just as well -- the bit I quoted went on in the same vein for quite some time. There are speeches in McFearless that are over a page long -- that's a bit excessive. The parts that are good are really entertaining. But overall, I had to struggle to finish it.