“So you do know why you came, you do want your blood. It is part of you. It is you. I have you in here. And once I give it back to you, you will remember who you are.”
James Kennedy’s The Order of Odd-Fish is certainly one of the most quirky and funny GU books I’ve read thus far. The blurb on the cover called it a cross between Monty Python and Roald Dahl, which is pretty accurate. But it also has a dark undercurrent that gets pretty horrifying toward the end. When this Girl Underground discovers she is More than she thought, it is not at all a happy revelation.
Jo has lived all her 13 years with her Aunt Lily – who is not really her aunt, and who can’t remember anything that happened to her before she found Jo as a baby, with a note of warning pinned to her. One day at her aunt’s party, strange guests appear (including a large talking cockroach), and a mysterious box falls from the sky, with items inside belonging to Jo and Aunt Lily. They are all pursued by a madman, ending in disaster when their plane crashes into the ocean and they are swallowed by a fish. However, their adventure is only beginning.
<SPOILERS> Inside the fish is a building, and inside the building, a man who restores the memories of Lily and their companions. They come ashore in a different land entirely, a land where they are all well known (if not quite welcomed by all). Descriptions of this city, its landscape and inhabitants, its strange customs, take up a large part of the book and are very entertaining. There are flying ostriches and anthropomorphic insects and underground caverns and dueling Orders of knights and squires. But the real meat of the story simmers beneath all of this, and is much more ominous.
Aunt Lily and the others return to the Order of Odd-Fish which they all once belonged to, and Jo tries to adjust to this new world and new life, but she must keep a big secret – Lily tells her that the people of this city believe she is the incarnation of an ancient, destructive goddess, so she must hide her true identity from everyone, even her friends. She also discovers that one of the Order’s knights, Sir Nils, was instrumental in bringing about this incarnation, and is out to get her. He has become an inhuman creature, and a formidable adversary. At first it seems this might all be just superstition and madness, but unfortunately it is all too real.
Like many Girls Underground, Jo is originally from this otherworld, but unlike most, she is not a princess or fairy or other heroine, she is in fact a dangerous, possibly even evil creature called the Ichthala. This latent being will manifest in Jo if the adversary can trap her and restore the Ichthala’s blood to her body, which he has been keeping inside of him (as I said, it gets pretty horrifying). She will then remember who she is, and destroy the world.
And in fact, this does happen, and Jo loses herself for a time within the mind of this powerful and awful goddess. She even forgets her own name. But in the end, she is stronger than the beast within, and she defeats the adversary, and unravels the monster, leaving herself intact. In a way, Jo’s greater adversary is a part of her own self. Which makes her struggle even more difficult and her victory more poignant. </SPOILERS>