Review originally posted at Views From the Tesseract: https://shanshad1.wordpress.com/2015/... Folks, there are books, that even if you can't judge theReview originally posted at Views From the Tesseract: https://shanshad1.wordpress.com/2015/... Folks, there are books, that even if you can't judge them by their cover, they give you some huge smacking clues about what's in the book. Like steampunk? Like dragons? Like steampunk dragons? Then by golly, I think this may well be your thing! Methinks the cool cover is bound to interest a lot of readers all on its own, but now let's take a look at the story.
Welcome to Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. Trenton Coleman is a kid living in this city, where invention is forbidden and creativity discouraged. But he can't help but want to tinker with things, to think of improvements that would make machines work better or faster or safer. He curious and gifted with a knack for invention. . . and that can lead to trouble. When Trenton discovers an unapproved item in the mines--something unlike anything he's ever seen, rather than turn it in or destroy it immediately, he keeps it. He's not sure what it does, but he's curious enough to want to figure it out. Kallista Babbage is the daughter of one of the most infamous men in Cove. Her father, Leo Babbage was a mechanic and an inventor who died in an explosion that the City blamed him for. But he left behind a set of clues for his daughter to follow--only Trenton has the very first piece. To solve her father's riddles and discover the answers he left behind, she'll need Trenton's help. Together, the two of them will explore the levels of Cove and find out what secrets Cove is guarding, and what her father ultimately built.
I admit, the cover is a bit of a spoiler straight out. Because the entire first few chapters, you're thinking "when is the dragon going to come into this?" Readers will quickly figure out that the cylinders Kallista and Trenton are assembling into a claw must be part of the dragon from the cover. Our heroes don't know this yet, of course. (They speculate Leo Babbage was building a giant chicken). However, this is hardly the kind of spoiler that ruins the enjoyment of reading the story. I found the dystopian setting combined with a scavenger hunt for clues and pieces really worked well. The author doesn't simply create an oppressive city for a background setting, but as a real interactive character in the whole book. The propaganda and control that the central government has over the populace is pretty firm, so that Trenton's flouting of the rules to hunt for pieces and clues puts him always at risk of being found out and in trouble for it. Still, the overall world is not one of grim oppression and unhappiness--there's room here for fun and hope that is in no way sinister. I found the story felt "old-school" to me, but in a good way. I read any number of stories back as a kid where youngsters are pushing against rules in their home place, seeking to discover the truths that have been hidden. This is lively, interesting and makes you want to keep turning pages to see how things will play out. What the characters ultimately discover about Cove and the truth behind it's founding threw me a little. My mind had been treating this as a rather strictly science fiction story, but the final discoveries in the book led me to reconsider that. I won't give things away here, but I did not predict what our protagonists discovered.
The author's strength's are in creating engaging characters that the reader wants to follow and root for. Trenton is an easily sympathetic fellow, even if he can be less than considerate much of the time. At thirteen, what kid is an angel? His frustration at his skills for mechanical things being stymied when he's assigned to farming is palpable. The fact that his mother doesn't want him working with machines and that at times Trenton doesn't realize how smart his father really is makes his parents seem real--not just cut out stereotypes. The tension between Trenton and his mother is quite possibly one of the things that is most significant in this story. So often parents are one dimensional, but here we see Trenton's mom as someone who has been traumatized, and it's colored her view of the world. She cares about her son, but can't accept his ambitions when they mean he will be at risk.
Kallista is a strong, smart and capable girl who is equally likable despite her temper and distrust. She's lonely, and though she rebuffs Trenton at times, she ultimately realizes she enjoys spending time with him. Both of our protagonists are gifted mechanics who know their way around tools--this is delightful to see, especially for Kallista. My only real complaint in the character area may be that I found the romantic interactions and motivations a little too cliched for my taste. Trenton's looking to impress a girl at the opening of the story. Later on, after he meets Kallista he becomes so involved in their project that he is literally clueless to every hint dropped by the same girl that she likes him. She practically has to hit him over the head to clue him in. Meanwhile, he's becoming wrapped up in feelings for Kallista--creating a love triangle situation that ultimately leads to trouble. Of all the types of relationships, falling back on this one felt out of place in such a fresh and exciting story.
I think this is an excellent steampunk urban fantasy/science fiction tale. It's a marvelous mix of the genres without apology for jumping between them. It's an ideal middle grade read that should appeal to a wide range of readers, and likely introduce them to some genre concepts they haven't encountered before. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in the Mysteries of Cove series.
Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher. ...more
Review originally posted at Views from the Tesseract: https://shanshad1.wordpress.com/2015/... Gulliver’s tales of tiny people still resonate. It’s ratReview originally posted at Views from the Tesseract: https://shanshad1.wordpress.com/2015/... Gulliver’s tales of tiny people still resonate. It’s rather funny. My kids have lately fallen in love with Gulliver’s Travels (1939, Paramount Pictures) despite the animation’s age. The story of the “giant” Gulliver who comes to the land of Lilliput where he helps stop a war and unite two kingdoms is a charming and delightful one for kids. It’s a good reminder that no matter how old or dated a medium might be, a good story will shine through.
It’s also a reminder to me that while there are always some stories of little people to be found, it’s been a while since someone has gone back to the original material of Swift’s Gulliver for inspiration. But that’s exactly where this story goes. Sam Gayton’s novel tells the story of what happens when Gulliver goes back to Lilliput … the crime he commits, and the very small girl with the huge spirit who just wants to go home again.
Lily is a small child of six the day a giant rises out of the sea, scoops her up in his hand and takes her away from all she’s ever known. She later learns this giant is Gulliver, the man who visited Lilliput once before. He’s written up his travels for all to read, but no one sees him as anything more than a crazy tale-teller. Driven by the need to prove himself, Gulliver takes Lily back to London as his proof . . . and as his prisoner. He teaches her English, dresses her and feeds her, but he will not let her go. Our story really begins six months later. Or six years later by Lily’s perception. For Lilliputians, a month equals a year in their own lifespan, and so our captive ages from six to twelve. And not a day goes by that Lily does not aspire to escape her prison and return to Lilliput. Even though each wild escape plan has failed, she tries again despite facing cruel punishment for her efforts. Lily’s escape is finally achieved–at least in part–when the note pleading for help she composed is answered by the clockmaker’s apprentice. Finn Safekeeping is the human boy who has come to help Lily, but he is as much a prisoner as she is, and the two of them must help each other to ultimately be free. It’s not going to be easy. For in order to escape, Lily will have to find the way home . . . something only Gulliver knows. And Finn’s master, the sadistic clockmaker would like nothing better than to get his hands on Lily–and keep her working as his slave.
Dark villains, daring escapes and indomitable spirits . . . this is an unforgettable story of adventure, magic and the determination to get home again. What could be better?
Gulliver is a rather woeful villain–who doesn’t really realize how terrible he is. He’s so absorbed in his goals that he can’t see what he’s really doing to poor Lily, and constantly goes on about awful British “yahoos” while never seeing the truth. Our clockmaker, on the other hand, is a nasty piece of work who lives to cause unhappiness for others. Finn Safekeeping is a strong and honorable ally, a boy who has his own hopes and dreams that he could follow, if only he were free to do so. However, if there’ one character in this novel I love more than any others, it’s the character of Lily. You might expect a tiny girl kidnapped from her home and brought to giant London would huddle in her cage like a teeny Thumbelina, perhaps adapting to her circumstance and coming to accept her new reality. Not Lily. She is fierce and determined and will not allow Gulliver to steal that away from her. Despite the years he’s taking from her, she will not bend. She will go home again, no matter how many failed escape plans fill the past months. She’s not sympathetic to Gulliver despite his explanations and rationlizations. She recognizes goodness–and wickedness. She is a real person with a powerful sense of agency. And she’s magnificent.
Before I forget, the illustrations provided by Alice Ratterree really add to the book. They help to set Lily’s size in the gigantic London and to enchant us with her POV and adventures. Though, I have to tell you, my favorite illustration is at the very end of the book . .. I think you’ll know it when you see it!
The story itself is at turns extremely dark: our villains are nasty and their eventual comeuppance is neither gentle nor pretty. This is a story for older kids who are comfortable with reading darker and scarier themes–and perhaps have read some of the original Gulliver’s Travels to boot. Despite the darker stuff, the story ultimately is one of triumph and hope for the future. The book has been out for a while in Britain, but isn’t due to be out on the shelves in the states until August. I’m hopeful we’ll see more from this author in the future.
Note: An advanced copy was provided by the publisher....more