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Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

Review

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

Children's literature of all stripes often begins with the premise of lost or neglected children. Those children may find themselves on grand adventures, sometimes in other worlds, which help them make sense of the life they left behind or which compel them to return home. Emma Trevayne's latest novel has all these hallmarks of juvenile literature fantasy-adventures, along with several others. FLIGHTS AND CHIMES AND MYSTERIOUS TIMES adds some cool steampunk elements and inventive characters that make it at once familiar and original.
 
Jack Foster lives in 1899 London with his parents but spends most of his time away at school or, when at home, with the family housekeeper, Mrs. Pond. Jack's parents love him but seem to have little time for him, leaving him often in the care of others or alone with his beloved books. Things get a bit more interesting when Mrs. Foster's new spiritualist, Mr. Havelock, shows up and inquires about taking Jack on as an apprentice. Jack's mother says no and Jack's anger grows. Following Mr. Havelock one day, however, leads Jack through a magical portal, up a tower and then down to Londinium, a world of gears and velvet, mechanical body parts and life-size wind-up dolls with souls; it is a world that reflects London above and one that enchants and frightens Jack.
 
Trevayne writes with a very literary style, penning wonderfully crafted and smart sentences.
 
In Londinium, Jack's pink skin and lack of brass bits mark him as an outsider. Luckily he soon befriends Beth, a wind-up girl with a sharp mind who takes him to her creator, Dr. Snailwater. Though Jack is thrilled to be in Londinium and happy to be away from his family and his old life, it soon becomes clear that his stay there will be complicated and dangerous --- it turns out Mr. Havelock, really a man named Lorcan, has planned to bring him to this sooty and strange city all along. Jack was identified as the next “son” of the Lady. The Lady is the ancient and mysterious ruler of Londinium, and she desires the perfect child for herself; one that is sweet, obedient, fun and who will never grow old. In becoming the Lady's son, Jack incurs Lorcan's wrath, for Lorcan was the Lady's son until he grew too old. With Lorcan trying to get rid of him and the Lady’s fickle love, Jack --- with help from Beth, Dr. Snailwater and other friends named Xeno and Arabella --- will have to find his way back to London. To do so, he must break the Lady's heart and free a mechanical beast called the Gearwing, defeat the evil Lorcan and hope that no gets hurt or dies in the process.
 
Illustrated by the fantastic Glenn Thomas, FLIGHTS AND CHIMES AND MYSTERIOUS TIMES is charming and strange, and also a bit dark and violent. Londinium is a fascinating place of magic and danger and the characters are enigmatic and interesting. Trevayne writes with a very literary style, penning wonderfully crafted and smart sentences. Though this is another-worldly adventure, the pace is, at times, a bit slow. Still, the story of a willfully lost boy and his journey home is enjoyable and inspired overall.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on May 13, 2014

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times
by Emma Trevayne

  • Publication Date: May 13, 2014
  • Genres: Children's
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1442498773
  • ISBN-13: 9781442498778