This is a great adventure story set in a steam punk version of Victorian England where clockwork robots work as servants, airships rule the skies and villainous villains do dastardly deeds to feisty children.
Bunzl has achieved, in this story, a superb children’s adventure. It aimed at junior children, around 9-11, but has lots to enjoy for older readers and parents. The story begins with the crash of an airship, piloted by John Hartman crashing as it is pursued into the night. John sends his clockwork fox, Malkin, with a message to his daughter, Lily. The airship crashes, John is presumed dead and Malkin flees into an unfamiliar darkness with hybrid half clockwork humans and their mechanical dogs giving chase. As he is a clockwork fox, Malkin rushes to find a safe place to hide before he winds down or before he is shot by those who give chase. Lily is unhappily residing at boarding school when she hears of her father’s disappearance. She is already an outcast for throwing the occasional punch and generally not conforming, so she receives little sympathy and is taken away by her governess, who is not all she seems. Back at home, Lily’s governess begins to asset strip the family mansion whilst searching for a perpetual motion machine John Hartman is rumoured to have perfected. Lily wants to run away but has no friends to run too, except her ailing godfather who lives in London. But is he all he seems?
Are you gripped yet?
The story is formulaic and holds few surprises for an older reader. The characters are simply drawn good or evil, with little complexity in between. The narrative is fast paced and everything about the story is plot driven. It has a cinematic quality and is certainly set for a big screen adaptation.What makes it worth reading is the brilliant creation of an alternate history and the inventive clockwork characters, such as Mrs. Rust the cook with interchangeable hands as culinary tools. I defy anyone to read the story and not wish they had a clockwork pet fox at the end.