If I could, I’d embrace whimsy and make every day a beautiful adventure for all of you. Seriously. Bubble machine fountains and sparkle pony stickers and . . . Well, you can see that even my attempts at whimsy are a fail. The practical gene is so dominant. I know that I’m not the ideal person to read steampunk because it is an entire genre made up to be whimsical and somewhat silly, but I still try, especially when they have covers that scream – we won’t wear miniature top hats and use the word “dirigible” (that word sets my teeth on edge). Unfortunately, this book was too silly and perhaps my mood was foul(er) because the summer is slipping away. But, dear friends, it doesn’t mean that you won’t love this madhouse of book about a girl on a quest in a very curious land that feels a little like a Tim Burton movie.
One determined girl. One resourceful boy. One miracle machine that could destroy everything.
After an unexplained flash shatters her world, seventeen-year-old Eyelet Elsworth sets out to find the Illuminator, her father’s prized invention. With it, she hopes to cure herself of her debilitating seizures before Professor Smrt—her father’s arch nemesis—discovers her secret and locks her away in an asylum.
Pursued by Smrt, Eyelet locates the Illuminator only to see it whisked away. She follows the thief into the world of the unknown, compelled not only by her quest but by the allure of the stranger—Urlick Babbit—who harbors secrets of his own.
Together, they endure deadly Vapours and criminal-infested woods in pursuit of the same prize, only to discover the miracle machine they hoped would solve their problems may in fact be their biggest problem of all.
This book was a mix of steampunk and magic which resulted in a charmingly strange world where steam powered elephants roamed carnival paths and zombie-like creatures devoured anyone unknowingly entered the wrong woods. The world building was my favorite part of the book, and I was so happy to see a steampunk book that actually contained a lot of nonsensical and redundant inventions for me to marvel over. Unfortunately, this book also had a high level of what I struggle to tolerate in steampunk books – the bumbling characters who are so very smart and so very clueless at the same time. Both of the major characters annoyed me, so my favorite character ended up being the one sensible character in the batch – the mute kitchen maid who I considered the real heroine in this adventure. I’m not sure why I didn’t connect with either Eyelet or Urlick, but I suspect that it is a case of bad first impressions. I liked Eyelet until she encountered Urlich, and then she came across as nosey and rude. Urlich was a problem for me from the start because he was so inconsistent – sort of a Jeckyl and Hide. I didn’t think their romantic connection was given the development it needed to be plausible, even steampunk plausible. I also had some issues with the ridiculousness of their respective “afflictions.” I just didn’t see what the big deal with having seizures was (it equalled mental hospital lockdown in this setting, but even that was so stupidly primitive). I was doubly annoyed with the explanation for Urlick’s unusual appearance. I think that if Tim Burton got a hold of this book and made it into a charming little film, I would really enjoy it, but as a book, it just didn’t work as a whole for me. I still think that true fans of steampunk will really enjoy this and I think that some middle school readers will enjoy this adventure – this is a quest story, after all, and it has some really engaging moments and fast paced action sequences.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.