Arthur Slade, Harper Trophy Canada, 2009, 275 pages, middle school steampunk.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A gripping new series combines Steampunk, spying, and a fantastic Victorian London.
The mysterious Mr. Socrates rescues Modo, a child in a traveling freak show. Modo is a hunchback with an amazing ability to transform his appearance, and Mr. Socrates raises him in isolation as an agent for the Permanent Association, a spy agency behind Brittania’s efforts to rule the empire. At 14, Modo is left on the streets of London to fend for himself. When he encounters Octavia Milkweed, another Association agent, the two uncover a plot by the Clockword Guild behind the murders of important men. Furthermore, a mad scientist is turning orphan children into automatons to further the goals of the Guild. Modo and Octavia journey deep into the tunnels under London and discover a terrifying plot against the British government. It’s up to them to save their country.
This is a fun steampunk novel for the middle school age group. There is so much adventure and imagination in this book that is is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers.
Modo is an incredibly ugly, hunchbacked young orphan who can change his appearance at will He was brought up in isolation by the mysterious Mr. Socrates to be a secret agent. I really felt for him in this book, he is so young and sheltered in so many ways, but so smart and able to fight at the same time. The scenes where he tries to come to terms with his appearance are touching and really add a human element to the book.
Modo teams up with Octavia Milkweed, a beautiful but street smart young woman who is also part of Mr. Socrates' secret organization. Mr Socrates is a shady and mysterious character who heads an ultra secret agency that is trying to protect the British Empire. Then there are the supporting characters and bad guys who also add so much to the book. The crazy Dr Hyde, is brilliant with all of his potions and clockwork mechanisms. Hakkandottir is an amazing, diabolical evil woman who kids will love to hate.
Slade throws these characters into horrifying scenarios where Modo and Octavia have to use their brains and instincts if they are to defeat the Clockwork Guild and their horrible, yet fascinating, scientific plans.
I really enjoyed the setting of Victorian London and the throwing together of the Hunchback and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde stories to create something unique and interesting. The clockwork gadgets and science aspects of the book mixed with well to create exciting action, mystery and intrigue. Then there is Slade's writing, which is sure to keep kids reading. This book will appeal to both boys and girls who have an interest in history and science, as well as those who like fast paced adventure.