With her friends - Robert, the clockmaker's son, and Malkin, her mechanical fox - Lily is plunged into a murky and menacing world. Too soon Lily realizes that those she holds dear may be the very ones to break her heart...
Murder, mayhem and mystery meet in this gripping Victorian adventure.
1. It's steampunk
I have often questioned the lack of space-set science fiction published for kids, but here's another question for you: why are there not more steampunk books written for children? In my opinion, the genre is perfect for a middle grade audience, with the opportunities it gives for exciting, imaginative adventure stories full of derring do, set in either an almost real or wildly alternative Victorian era. Perhaps Peter Bunzl's debut, Cogheart, will be the book that changes this as it is easily one of the best I have read in the genre, for kids or adults and at times I was reminded of Joan Aiken's wonderful Wolves Chronicles books, but with the added fantastical steampunk elements.
2. The pace
This story takes a little while to get going but this gradual build up is worth it as sets the scene for a plot that is fast-paced and full of unrelenting action and adventure for the heroine and her friends. Steampunk books for younger readers, sometimes more that science fiction, require this kind of set-up at the beginning as the world is so similar to our own Victorian era, and the steampunk elements need to be introduced in a way that isn't jarring or confusing. Peter Bunzl manages this with ease.
3. The characters
Be it Lily and her new friend Robert, or Malkin the mechanical fox, or even Roach and Mould, the particularly nasty and thuggish villains of the piece, Cogheart is chock full of cracking characters. Lily is brave but sometimes this comes with a degree of recklessness, whilst Robert's bravery is not quite so outwardly obvious as he is more cautious in his nature, but the courage is there when it needs to be. Malkin is irritable and proud, but also fiercely loyal and great to have around when everything's hitting the fan. And Roach and Mould have just the right level of pantomime about them to have young readers on the edge of their seats, and also wanting to boo their every appearance in the story.
Cogheart is a very well plotted action adventure story that is one of my favourite reads of the year so far. I believe there is a sequel out next year, and I for one cannot wait to read it. Cogheart has a satisfying conclusion but does leave the reader with enough questions to have them wanting more. My thanks go to the fab people at Usborne for sending me a copy to read.