Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times - Emma Trevayne

While trying to follow a mysterious gentleman, Mr. Lorcan Havelock, a magician, through the bowels of Big Ben's clock tower, Jack finds himself lost in a place eerily similar to London, but also quite a bit . . . off. Londinium, as it is known, is populated by clockwork people, steam-powered dragons, faeries of various embodiments, and other odd sorts, all ruled over by the powerful, but not altogether loveable, Lady. The Lady wants a son, but not one filled with gears and metal, rather she wants a child made purely of flesh and blood, and Jack is the boy she has chosen. Little does Jack know that he is in a lot of trouble. When he meets Beth, her thirteenth incarnation, the two start out on a quest to find a legendary clockwork bird that could help him escape back to his real home.

The fantastical cover art really does reflect the whimsical and mysterious tale within. Jack's adventure, though dark and dangerous, is told with a sense of awe and wonder as Jack explores his new surroundings, full of airships, wind-up people, and oddly named neighborhoods similar, but not quite the same as his London home:

     It looked just like a very ordinary street. Like Piccadilly [here spelled Pick-A-Dilly]. Like . . . London. Shops and merchants and people complaining about the price of things as they parted with their coins.
     But at the same time, it did not. It was true he did not know london well, but he was sure nonetheless that none of the shops there had an enormous copper dragon scale behind the plate glass, guaranteed lucky.
Mixed in with the darker themes and the obvious feelings of disorientation are other moments of humour. One of my particular favourite passages in the beginning of the novel is a description of Mrs. Pond:
They left Wilson waiting with the carriage, Mrs. Pond having been raised, many years before, among the East End toughs and thus able to do strange and terrible things with a hat pin should the need arise.
Trevayne is an obviously talented writer. This is a wonderfully-wrought tale of intrigue and suspense, blended with a Victorian gearpunk aesthetic, and populated with fully developed, unique characters (human or otherwise.)

Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out May 13, 2014)

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