Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for this advance reader copy.
When it comes to Middle Grade fiction, I have a strong love for the ones that incorporate parallel universes or cities for the sake of providing strong character growth. Emma Trevayne’s Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times falls perfectly into my favourite type of middle grade novel, as she uses an alternate London (Londinium) to provide the backdrop and growth for her protagonist, Jack, a young boy who simply wants people to accept him for who he is.
This novel is very easy to gravitate towards. It has the right amount of action, two strong antagonist (if you can call Lorcan an antagonist, he’s a tricky fellow to pin-point), and a main character who is easily likable and you understand his decisions. Jack’s behaviour is so idealistic and innocent, but when he is forced to face reality, he learns his harsh lessons and attempts to grow from them rather than throw a fit. He’s lucky too, he gets a clockwork dragon as a companion, which I am horrifically jealous of!
There’s a lot to love about this alternate London that Trevayne has crafted. It’s a vibrant and vivid world, so it’s easy to imagine. Middle Grade often can have this problem that if the world isn’t easy to imagine or participate in, it can be difficult to keep interest, and I feel like Trevayne just makes everything feel so effortless — she knows her audience and creates an engaging world, one that is insanely active and easy to just fall into. When we follow Jack, we aren’t just seeing the world through his eyes, and when we are, it’s truly a joyous experience.
I really adored all the characters in this story. Beth made me smile because although she is a character who has had a lot of suffering, she doesn’t let it destroy her. I LOVED Lorcan, even if a few times I wanted to punch him in his book balls for hurting Jack. His motivations were fabulous, a bit cheeky, and he was easy to engage with. I especially loved how subservient he was to The Lady. I could go on and on about these characters, but then I’d be spoiling the novel.
This is my first book by Emma Trevayne, and it definitely will not be my last. While I’m disappointed my digital ARC did not have the illustrations, I can only image how perfect they probably are when coupled with the story. It’s a shame this novel isn’t releasing until May of next year, because it’s hands down one of the best Middle Grade adventure novels I’ve read in awhile, and it’s a book I know I’ll be buying for everyone. Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times asks for so little of its reader, but packs such a meaty punch in its storytelling, that it’ll be perfect for even the pickest reader.
Seriously, pre-order this book now. You will not be disappointed.