Trevayne, E. (2014). Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442498778
Annotation: Jack is tired of being ignored at home, so when he overhears a magician offer to train him, Jack is determined to make it happen. He follows the magician through a mysterious doorway, leading him into a different London and on a great adventure.
Reaction: First, let me say that I love love love the cover of this book. It is so beautiful and magical and mysterious, and it is the reason I picked this up and checked it out in the first place.
This book is in a genre called Steampunk, and Trevayne does a great job of introducing the reader to the fantastical world she has created. Her descriptions of Londinium are very vivid and really make you feel like you’re right there with Jack. The steampunk elements really help to highlight how different Londinium is from London, and I love the idea of a fairyland where all the creatures are living machines. The mechanical fairies, in particular, are a nice touch.
Trevayne populates Londinium with a cast of creative and clever characters. I loved the clockwork girl, and the Lady’s capriciousness made her genuinely scary, but it was Lorcan the magician who really turned out to be the most frightening character. He quickly reveals to the reader how jealous he is of the Lady’s affections, leading him to a deep hatred of Jack that only grows over the course of the book. He is the biggest threat to Jack, and I felt like he might really do some damage to Jack or his friends.
This is a fun, fantasy adventure that I think would appeal to boys and girls in 4th-6th grades. The steampunk elements could appeal to Doctor Who and Warehouse 13 fans. It was a quick read and a nice twist on a typical “lost in Fairy land” kind of story.
Minor spoilers below:
I will say that, while I really enjoyed this book, and would happily recommend it to others, I felt like the ending was a little rushed. Jack and his band of friends solved the central problem much more quickly than I thought was plausible, and it felt like a bit of a letdown after so much build up. Also, midway through the book, Jack loses a hand and is given a Londinium clockwork prostheses, and I could not stop thinking about what would happen to Jack after he outgrows it. I’m not sure very many middle grade readers would ever consider this, but it was something that really bothered me.