Thirteen-year-old Lily is left alone when her inventor father goes missing, presumed dead, after a Zeppelin crash. Previously, Lily had been injured and her mother killed in a steam-wagon accident. However, Lily realises that there is more to these incidents and decides to investigate. She is joined by Robert, a clock-maker’s son, and Malkin, a clockwork fox, as they try to unravel the puzzle.
Engaging from the outset, this début novel by Bunzl is a steampunk adventure. Filled with clockwork people and animals, airships and steam-powered transport, mirror-eyed villians and daring heroines, it fulfils all the necessities of a good read. Bunzl’s skill as an animator is evident in the strikingly visual nature of his writing. Characters, locations and objects are so clearly depicted that reading becomes almost cinematic. Scene after scene, the story unfolds at breakneck pace, with the protagonists staying just a step ahead of disaster along the way. Sudden twists and turns, the timely appearance of new characters and the shock of revelations, add to the page-turning hold of the story. We are drawn into to the developing friendships and loyalties, moved by the power of love and horrified by the devastating effect of greed.
The conclusion is satisfying, though it leaves enough unanswered questions to warrant a sequel. Readers should also take some time to visit the website, www.cogheart.com, where there is a charming animation of the book cover.