Delaney suggested this book to me. Pretty much any book she recommends is worth reading. She didn't let me down. I totally enjoyed this novel. It is, after all, steampunk. It has a hint of magic. Set in the 1900's in an American City, it has a Dickensian feel. The main characters are three children coming from, and dealing with difficult circumstances. Matthew Kirby, the author, weaves together their seemingly unconnected narratives into a gripping and suspenseful adventure.
Giuseppe and Frederick are orphans who have ended up in very different situations.
Giuseppe, a street violinist, lives a life similar to that of Oliver Twist. He was sold by his uncle to a brutal padrone named Stephano, a Fagin like character. He finds a magical green violin that sparks hope that he might one day escape and return to Italy and find his siblings.
Frederick was rescued from a harsh orphanage by Master Branch, to become an apprentice clockmaker. He longs to become a journeyman, and is working in the cellar of their shop to create a mechanical man.
Hannah works in a hotel because her father, once a famous stonemason, has had a stroke. She is fortunate to be taken under the wing of Madame Pomeroy, but whom she ultimately betrays in an attempt to save her father.
The three children eventually come together in an adventure that involves stealing a mechanical head, running from the law, and searching for treasure.
This is a book about friendship, trust, and hope.
The only reason I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars instead of 5, is that while Hannah is indeed a strong character, her strengths are a little to stereotypically female.
With a 4.5 reading level, it is a relatively easy read. This makes it perfect for reluctant readers and younger, competent readers who are not ready for more complex steampunk. Beware though, while not gratuitous, there are some frightening violent scenes. (On the other hand, while I thought it was frightening, readers at our school often shake their heads when I complain a book is too scary.)