I don’t normally read Middle Grade, but I decided to give this book a go anyway. After all, it’s got faeries, steampunk, and Bath (which I live near) – it sounded like a pretty good combination to me! I’m so glad that I read this, because it turns out that I’ve misjudged the genre. This book is dark, sophisticated, and much more mature than a lot of YA that I’ve read.
The writing was absolutely perfect. It didn’t push the ‘quasi-Dickensian’ thing too much with its style, but still had a distinctly Victorian feel. It’s very evocative, painting a clear picture of the cramped faery slums and the smoke-filled London streets. The world feels real, with its blend of strange magic and steampunk technology. It’s genuinely some of the best writing I’ve read in a while.
This book is all about the atmosphere. It’s exactly what I want from faeries – dark and twisted and inhuman. The society is hostile and odd, and many of the scenes feel very tense. Some of the elements – especially Melusine’s plotline – are incredibly dark. Not just creepy, like I expected from middle grade, but honestly a lot darker than a lot of YA. I loved the way that the darkness of the setting is contrasted with two fairly innocent protagonists, which stopped the whole thing from becoming too gloomy while making the shadows harsher at the same time.
The characters weren’t the strongest element of the novel, but both Bartholomew and Arthur Jelliby made likeable enough protagonists. Neither was traditionally heroic, particularly Bartholomew, which made the dilemma that he faces at the end much more interesting. Speaking of the end, I’d have liked a more concrete ending, but this ending did fit – bleak and bittersweet, ending the main story but leaving enough threads loose for a sequel.
I should probably add that I had no idea that this was written by a young author until after I’d finished the book. Really, I couldn’t tell at all. This is a great book, regardless of the author’s age.