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The Terrible Twins

January 29, 2018

I fear I’ve run out of precocious Edgar Jepson children. If anyone knows of any more, please tell me about them.

Sadly, The Terrible Twins, while enjoyable, is inferior to the Lady Noggs books, the Tinker books, and every Pollyooly thing except for Pollyooly Dances. I think we can all agree that Pollyooly Dances was a mistake. 

The Terrible Twins was not a mistake, but I’m not entirely sure it justifies its existence. For one thing, it reads like Jepson sat down to write and said to himself, “What if Tinker and Noggs were siblings?” Erebus and the Terror, AKA Violet Anastasia and Hyacinth Wolfram Dangerfield, look like the earlier characters, and often act like them. But Tinker and Noggs — and Pollyooly for that matter — are products of unusual living situations, while the Dangerfields live in a small village with a widowed mother in straitened circumstances. They’re good as village troublemakers, but the bigger their adventures get, the more out of proportion they feel.

Their first adventure, getting rid of their mother’s unappealing suitor, might be their best. The chapters where they get involved with their rich aunt’s pet charity are also pretty fun, but in retrospect they lump themselves in with the overreaching of the later chapters. I also really liked the twins’ friend and neighbor, a child they call Wiggins, who likes to launch himself into the air for no apparent reason. But the book as a whole feels a little too self-conscious, and, as it goes on, tired.  Edgar Jepson has done this too many times before, and done it better. The twins are too precocious and too innocent by turns.

I was also irritated by the Terror’s implied superiority to Erebus, who was the more sympathetic character. It feels like Jepson is trying to make up for this by making sure she occasionally gets a more prominent part in an adventure, but that just makes it worse. I found I increasingly resented the Terror for telling Erebus what to do.

If you’re a precocious-Edgar-Jepson-child enthusiast, The Terrible Twins is worth a read. Otherwise, you should give Tinker or Pollyooly a try — and perhaps become a precocious-Edgar-Jepson-child enthusiast.

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