It is the eve of the First World War, but not quite as we know it. Since Stephen Hunt burst
upon the speculative fiction scene steampunk has suddenly experienced a surge in popularity, and
here is its latest incarnation. Young Prince Aleksander’s parents have just been assassinated
at Sarajevo and he finds himself on the run with his old tutor and a few others. Meanwhile,
Deryn Sharp has dressed herself up as a boy in order to sit the exams and become an airman in
the British Air Service. They are destined to meet, and are about to have more adventures than
they ever dreamed of.
If you, like this reviewer, are a steampunk fan then this will have plenty of appeal.
Aleksander’s side is the "Clankers" who have perfected heavy machinery that walks instead of
rolls while Deryn’s side is the "Darwinists" who have mastered genetics to such an extent that
they can make weapons. Walking tanks lack the appeal of Hunt’s delightful steammen, but the
live airships made from different creatures remain in the mind after the book was finished.
This won’t take you long either as there is barely a spare word and the action rips merrily
along, leaving you wanting more. This is the first part of a trilogy and is destined to be
very popular, I am sure, as it presses all the right buttons. It is even illustrated
with drawings which suit the tone of the book and bring it all to life—although if Deryn
looks quite as female as that she wouldn’t have fooled anybody! Imaginative and sure to appeal
to a wider variety of ages than just the 12 and up recommended. One not to miss.