Published: May 13, 2014
Number of pages: 307
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: fantasy, steampunk, adventure
Rating: children’s fiction
Verdict: 5 owl hoots out of 5
Jack Forster is an 11-year-old boy returning home to London after his school semester. But then he meets a mysterious man named Mr. Havelock who leads him to a strange portal into a city unlike Jack has ever seen: Londinium. Over there, Jack meets the Lady of the Empire who demands a new flesh and blood son. Jack’s only hope to escape and return home is to find the Gearwing, a legendary clockwork bird that grants wishes.
A children’s book with a beautiful illustrative cover of London but with flying dirigibles and mechanical factories billowing smoke in the background. By the time my eyes were set on the illustration, I was immediately drawn into the story. And the story itself is just as whimsical as the cover.
Picture a city that is London. Now add metal dragons, birds and crafty faeries with people wearing goggles to protect their eyes from the fog, mechanical limbs, and brass grill insets in their noses to filter the air. And you’ve called a steampunk city called Londinium! I absolutely love this world so full of imagination and wonder. The world of Londinium just leaps off the page with colorful descriptions of the people and creatures inhabiting this city.
Jack Forster is like Alice in Wonderland as he jumps through a strange portal that takes him to a world that is unlike his own. He’s a character I can relate to, an 11-year-old boy dreaming of adventures and finds it intolerable just staying at home with his stuffy parents. Sometimes I wish there was a portal where I can jump to and find myself in another world you think only exits in dreams and imaginations. Wouldn’t that be awesome? When Jack arrives he’s excited and my heart was racing with anticipation as he discovers Londinium’s secrets and mechanical inventions that he’s never seen before. When Jack spends his time in the Empire with the Lady, he vows never to return and who can blame him? Even I would like to go to a world that is Londinium. But Jack meets his arch nemesis, a mysterious magician named Mr. Havelock who is as patient as he is clever. Even in the beginning, he manages to outwit Jack by starting that sick and horrible accident that was just disgusting.
I love how every character we’re introduced has a back-story. We even learn of how Mr. Havelock came to be in Londinium and who he was before he met the Lady. Speaking of the Lady, she seemed scary at first but after learning about her desolated life in the palace, I started feeling sorry for her. She deserves to have someone like Jack and I was glad that things turned out for the better when she finally found someone.
The characters and the city of Londinium come to life as the story itself is so imaginative, but I think the main attraction is the Gearwing, a mechanical bird that grants wishes. This is a book that not only kids will enjoy, but adults and fans of steampunk will too.