Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

flights Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London. Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones. Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack. Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird. The Gearwing grants wishes—or it did, before it was broken—before it was killed. But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Although I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, this dark middle grade read was a wonderful exception.  The gorgeous cover featuring clocks, steam, gears, and goggles peaked my interest in this steampunk adventure.  Set in a mysterious alternate version of London, readers can expect portals, dragons, airships, mechanical faeries, and villains. Trevayne’s imaginative descriptions of this parallel world and the characters in them were well written.  A few black and white illustrations were spread throughout and enjoyed; minus the image on page 192 (I have no idea what it’s supposed to be).  My other critique is regarding The Lady.  All we know is that she desperately wants a human child. But why?  I think her character left some unexplored potential.

Overall, I could easily see this book being adapted to the big screen. The unique premise and the steampunk world building, create a page-turning fantastical adventure that would have high appeal to middle graders.

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