The Australia/New Zealand cover
|Publication date||May 2006|
|Published by||Omnibus Books (Australia)|
Foundling is the first book in the Monster Blood Tattoo series. It is also the shortest of the three at 433 pages.
Rossamünd Bookchild is a foundling at Madam Opera's Estimable Marine Society for Foundling Boys and Girls in Boschenberg. Despite being a boy, he has struggled with his female name all his life and is a frequent target of the other children, in particular Gosling Corvinius Arbour, the most spiteful child at the foundlingery. Despairing after not being selected by any of the hiring agencies that visit during the hiring period in HIR 1601, his life changes when Sebastipole, an agent for the lamplighters, visits one day and offers him the opportunity to become a lamplighter. Although this is completely different from what he had been trained and brought up to expect, becoming a vinegaroon sailing the vinegar seas, Rossamünd feels that he has no other alternative but to accept.
After being prepared for his journey by his masters, he receives his instructions from a leer (a spy who has a special box with organs in it to enhance his sense of smell) and sets off on a river voyage on the Hogshead, a ram captained by an intimidating man named Poundinch. However he soon learns that he has been tricked onto the wrong ship, and is now slave to a band of criminals. He learns little of their trade other than that they are smuggling some kind of terrible contraband. Rossamünd only narrowly escapes fate as a captive cabin boy when, unwilling to reveal their cargo to river gatekeepers, the criminals are attacked by rams of the navy.
Rossamünd, having escaped the river battle, reaches the riverbank and struggles through the wilderness on his own. He comes close to death before being found by Miss Europe, a fulgar (a type of lahzar, or monster hunter) who can fire lightning from her hands. Her powers are demonstrated to Rossamünd as they come across the Misbegotten Schrewd, an ettin (a very large monster). It shows some level of intelligence and no outward hostility, and so Rossamünd cannot help but sympathise with it as it is slain by Miss Europe.
Their party is attacked soon after by grinnlings (also known as nimbleschrewds, a small and particularly nasty breed of monster) and the creepy leer Licurius, Miss Europe's personal servant, is killed. Rossamünd drags the badly-wounded and unconscious fulgar to Harefoot Dig, a wayhouse on the road to High Vesting, where she is healed and rested. While staying at the Dig, Rossamünd becomes privy to Miss Europe's reputation and hears her referred to as the Branden Rose, a name with infamy attached to it. Miss Europe also begins to refer to Rossamünd as her factotum (a servantile position previously held by Licurius). Rossamünd is torn between his predestined career of lamplighting, and this new prospect. To replace the deceased Licurius in the short term however, Rossamünd is charged with hiring a new carriage driver in the nearby town of Silvernook. There he finds the postman Fouracres, a friendly man who is all too willing to help, who seems to be a monster-sympathiser. The party now leave the wayhouse and after uneventful travel they reach High Vesting - Rossamünd's original destination.
Two weeks having passed since Rossamünd left the Marine Society, he is eager to get to his new place of employment but Miss Europe has business to attend to. Rossamünd is left to explore the city. He comes across the Hogshead docked in the harbour, and is confronted by Poundinch. The captain, assuming Rossamünd to be snooping into his mysterious, live, and probably-illegal cargo, ties Rossamünd to one of the crates in the hold and leaves him there. Rossamünd gives up hope of being rescued until whatever is inside the crate begins talking to him. It turns out to be a glamgorn (a friendly, little, human-like bogle) named Freckle. The other crates do not contain such friendly creatures however, and Rossamünd realises Poundinch's trade: smuggling deceased human bodyparts to be put together into new, horrible creatures like those in the other crates. The captain soon returns and removes Rossamünd from the hold, but not before Freckle hints at some hidden significance to the foundling's name.
Poundinch leads Rossamünd to one of his other ships, but Rossamünd escapes the captain and flees - right to the safety of Fouracres and Miss Europe. Miss Europe takes the captain out with one electric shock, and Poundinch falls into the caustic water of the harbour. Rossamünd insists that the three of them go back to the Hogshead to rescue Freckle, and they do just that (Freckle immediately disappearing into the sea), but the subsequent realisation that Freckle is a bogle sparks momentary hostility between Miss Europe and the foundling. However, they continue on to find Rossamünd's employers. On the way, Miss Europe reveals that she is suffering from an undetermined illness, and must travel far away to where she was altered into a lahzar so she can be treated. She promises to return after a while to see how Rossamünd is faring in his lamplighting career, and to again offer him the position of her factotum. Accepting this, he bids Miss Europe and Fouracres farewell.
Rossamünd discovers that Germanicus, whom he was supposed to report to in High Vesting, had given up waiting for the foundling and had moved on north to Winstermill. He sets off in a coach, accompanied now only by parting gifts from Europe: food, more money than Rossamünd had ever seen in his life, and a note revealing the lahzar's true identity: Europa, a duchess-in-waiting, set to one day rule over the rich city-state of Naimes. Soon enough Rossamünd reaches Winstermill, and is signed into service by two registrars, friendly Inkwill the and nasty Witherscrawl. He is also given a letter, written five days ago by Verline. This letter reveals that Fransitart will soon be on his way to see Rossamünd, and is bearing some kind of distressing news. Completely confused, Rossamünd goes to bed. He will begin his career as a lamplighter at the dawn.
- Best Young Adult Novel - 2006 Aurealis Awards
- 2007 Best Book for Young Adults list - American Library Association
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