Usually I base my choice of books on the title, the genre, the blurb. This book I purely picked because it had a mechanical fox on the cover. I also felt like an easy read, and this is a middle-grade book, so it seemed like something I’d want at this time. I requested it on Netgalley and it got approved. Hurray! Here’s the blurb:
Thirteen-year-old Lily Harman always dreamed of adventure. A strong-willed girl, Lily felt trapped in a life of Victorian stuffiness at her prim boarding school. But after her father-a famous inventor-disappears on a routine zeppelin flight, Lily’s life gets turned upside down.
Now cared for by her guardian, the heartless Madame Verdigris, Lily is quite certain that she’s being watched. Mysterious, silver-eyed men are lurking in the shadows, just waiting for their chance to strike. But what could they possibly want from her?
There are rumors, Lily learns, that her father had invented the most valuable invention ever made-a perpetual motion machine. But if he made such a miraculous discovery, he certainly never told Lily. And all he left behind is a small box-with no key, no hinges.
With the help of a clockmaker’s son, Robert, and her mechanimal fox, Malkin, Lily escapes London in search of the one person who might know something about her father’s disappearance-and what he left behind.
A mystery, adventure, and a strongwilled girl as a protagonist in a steampunk-victorian setting. Lovely! This book could have used a content warning for parental death, gries, and some torture. I was surprised how some of those things were suddenly sprung on me, especially seeing that the book is aimed at 8 tot 12 year olds. What also rubbed me the wrong way is that the gender of Lily is really strongly affirmed a few times. She goes to a girl-school (which makes sense, at that part of the story), but later on a whole paragraph is needed to explain why she wants to get a (technical) education and not just ettiquette and posture, even though she’s a girl. She says she is more of a tomboy, when she wears boy clothes. Her friend Robert even says it’s weird to see her on those clothes. He is also very taken aback when she wears a fancy dress. Just… let Lily be, do and wear what she liked without it being a /thing/. I did like there was no love/crush-subplot going on though.
The story itself is fastpaced, many twists and turns (albeit some are seen from a distance; then again I’m way older then the expected demographic), and lovely ways of using language. I especialy loved the mechanicals and mechanimals (that pun, you folx! <3), with their thematic saying like "cogs and chronometers" and "punchcards and pistons". The description of the world is vivid and descriptive: I could see the scenes play out before my eyes while reading.
The book came out in the UK in 2016, but will be published in the US at the 12th of February. So if you have a kid in your life that can handle some hard topics, and would like to nudge them towards steampunky interests, this might be right up your alley.