DNF Review: Lydia's Enchanted Toffee by Neale Osborne

Friday, December 4, 2015
Title: Lydia's Enchanted Toffee
Author: Neale Osborne
Genre: middle grade, fantasy
Series: Lydia #1
Pages: 325
Published: October 23, 2015
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 1/5

Planet Plenti is a most extraordinary place, a world of incredible edible delights; of confectionery minerals, fizzy pop springs, forests and jungles full of delectable plantlife …

And yet, for children in the land of Likrishka, life is less than ordinary, and mostly very grim - as the Likrish population lives under the watchful rule of Stannic, a tin-skinned tyrant, a Master Chef who commands an army of robot waiters.
Thus nine-year-old Lydia faces a future slaving away in a factory camp - but the girl was born with a mysterious power over metal (when she eats a special type of toffee) …

One eventful day, she meets a gang of other girls with strange sweetie powers: the deadly Bull’s-Eye, razor-toothed Jawbreaker, fire-breathing Peppermint, super-fast Hazel Whirl; there’s Marshmallow, Ice Lolly, Sugar Cube, Dolly Mixture, Cocoa and Marzipan … and together, they must travel across the robot-controlled Candi-Lands, on a treasure hunt for magic sweets that will help to defeat the villainous Chef … and return their world to its sweetest, once more.

This is a new slimmer version of Neale Osborne's acclaimed debut ‘Lydia’s Tin Lid Drum’ - in 44 short chapters, from ‘Appetizer’ to ‘Afters’, decorated with over 100 illustrations - some of them new to this beautifully-presented paperback edition.

DNF at 36%.

Should have been 8% when the world building was delivered in "a funny chiming rhyme":

'In Franjipan, there's marzipan, jelly beans, and lemon trees. ( Chip chop ~ Timberrr!!)
The land of Froza is frozen over with drifts of sorbet and whips of ice-crem. ( Brrr ~ Brrr ~ Brr!!)
In Delisha's forests, there's cherries and berries, snaffle-wolves and truffle-boars. ( Grrr ~ Grrr ~ Grrr!!)
The Winelands are lushy with gum-bushy vines, barley-sugar fields, and rivers of wine. ( Pip pop ~ Glug glug glug!) Nooga is glutty with nutty orchards, smarty arty boutiques and canals. (Ship shop ~ ship shop)
Likrishka's a mixture of raw fudge sands, allsort allotments, and factory lands. (Dig-dug ~ Chug-chug-Chug!!) Then there are the isles of Baykari:
Krackatucka, Kukio. Krustiko and Layakayk. One! Filled with savory snacks. Two! All layered with biscuit packs. Three! With beaches of crusty bread. Four! Full of cake on an edible bed.'

The writing is abhorrent. There's nothing witty or interesting in changing "bakery" to "Baykari". Calling France, (and if you look at the map, the illustrator didn't even bother to change the coast shape,) "The Winelands" is lazy. Nooga actually still has the boot shape. Because we wouldn't have got it was Italy by the canals. How can an ocean change from peach syrup on one coast to tea to orange juice? Are there no currents in this world? There's still a tide. How can you ban children from eating sweets in a land literally made from candy?!

The language, supposed to be whimsical, is annoying and difficult to read. In addition to the weird rhyme scheme that continues even beyond the history lesson, no sound is allowed to go by without an onomatopoeia. "Craa-craa cries" of gulls, "slish-slish" and "Shug-a-shug-a-shug" go the snakes. The fact that the author admits he cut 20% of the book and there's still room for a thesaurus' worth of adjectives, is honestly upsetting. The "sisters", as the gang of misfits is known is each illustrated by her own phonetic accent. Dolly, the cutsey one's wisp is spwelled wike dis. Coco, the French one, says "shocolart", (chocolate. Yes really,) and "ze moanies". I can't begin to tell you what Jawbreaker's is supposed to be, except absolutely unparsable.

The plot involves the girls traveling the world, looking for magical sweets for a mysterious benefactor known as "Mam-ba-Hiska". (She commands robot snakes.) (In case you didn't get it.) A metallic dictator, Stannic, has taken over Lydia's homeland of Likrishka and has now set his sights on her neighbors. They start in Franjipan, steal a tractor and ride to Froza. Steal a snowmobile and ride to the active volcano(?) Steal a boat and sail to Delisha. I gave up when it came time to steal a subway car, but I imagine we're just going to run down the list from the poem. In each location, the girl from the area demonstrates the special powers given to her by a never ending supply of candy. Marzipan blends into the trees. Ice Lolly makes ice. Dolly disarticulates at the waist and uses her upper body as a grappling hook. All the while Lydia uses her drum to bring down the metal dictator's birds and crabs. They find the magical sweet with almost no effort. They all complain they're hungry despite living in a world literally made of food. They move on to the next.

Ideas aren't well explained. There are illustrations, (which have the detail of clip art,) but even so I can't visualize Peppermint, who has blue skin, striped eyes, and four arms? Why? How? Likewise, pseudo technobabble about how sugar cubes run cyborgs and jello turns into electricity just left me confused and apathetic. 

Without reading the original version, I can't say for certain who influenced whom, but there's a lot of similarity between this story and Modelland. While LET skews younger, the writing cadence and the made up language are eerily familiar. ML also featured a round the world tour, introducing a girl in each country, (also obviously inspired by real life). Each of them also featured a physical abnormality and a special talent. Maybe it's a case of both authors trying, (unsuccessfully,) to ape Roald Dahl, but the book certainly doesn't work any more for me now than it did in 2012 when I read ML.


  1. Between this and the Fabio book, I am surprised you don't hate reading right now :p thank you for doing this so we don't have to! Aahahha I kid I kid

    1. But, the cover! Did you see the cover?!

      Yeah, I need a sure thing after this.


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