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Malamander by Thomas Taylor is the first book in the Legends of Eerie-on-Sea middle grade urban fantasy series. In the summer time, this seaside town is Cheerie-on-Sea but come winter, the Ch falls off, the tourists go home, and the town settles into its true nature.
Herbert "Herbie" Lemon is twelve and has been working as the Grand Nautilus Hotel's Lost-and-Founder for most of it. He's tasked with returning lost items to former visitors. Now he has his toughest case yet, helping Violet Parma find her parents. She was left in the hotel as a baby and has returned in hopes of learning what happened.
In the background of Violet's quest, is the malamander. She's a sea creature who estivates and comes out to lay a single egg on the winter solstice. The egg is said to be able to grant a wish. But it's also said to be cursed.
Eerie-on-Sea as a fictional seaside town fits in nicely with two other middle grade towns that run on puns and paranormal hijinks. I recommend this first book to fans of the Nagspeak books by Kate Milford and the Secrets of Topsea books by Kir Fox.
The malamander, a portmanteau of malmum (evil) and salamander, is the driving force in this novel. She's a misunderstood, magical sea creature. Yes, her actions to protect her egg can result in a cursed existence for those foolish enough to go after it, but she's not inherently evil. How Violet and Herbie discover this is one of the most interesting parts of the book.
While this novel is British, it is one of those outliers on the road narrative spectrum. Although Violet returns to where she was abandoned, her journey is within the confines of the town, and it's not one she can return home from at the end of the novel. Maybe at the end of the series she will. For now though, she shares a journey with Herbie.
Herbie and Violet are both orphans (FF). Or presumed orphans in that the whereabouts of both sets is unknown. Both want to know what happened to their parents, though, Violet more so than Herbie. Through the magic of the malamander's egg, they can get a glimpse at the past. That desire to know what happened is a destination in uhoria (CC). Their route is offroad, namely across the muddy ocean floor (66). Thus book one in this series can be summarized as an orphan's journey to uhoria via an offroad route (FFCC66).
The second book in the series is Gargantis (2020).