Modo the disfigured young hunchback has the unique ability to shift into any shape he wants–but only for a few hours. Trained from birth by the mysterious Mr. Socrates he’s enlisted at the age of fourteen as a secret agent. Someone is kidnapping orphans and turning you men into unwilling assassins. With the help another teen agent–the witty, feisty, and beautiful Octavia Milkweed–the two of them must stop the Clockwork Guild’s nefarious plot before it’s too late.
This fast-paced Steampunk book for young adults is packed full of action, suspense and mystery. The Steampunk elements are woven seamlessly into the story and even though the advanced technology isn’t precisely explained, you never question it’s presence, both from the ghastly experiments of Dr. Hyde the mad-scientist or the wondrous gadgets Mr. Socrates has. There’s everything from mechanical birds to steam powered limbs, to giant robots.
There’s not a lot of backstory, but there’s some great character development. It’s very easy to root for young, sheltered, and resilient Modo, horrifying looks aside. Octavia, the savvy former orphan and street sparrow, makes a great foil and the attraction between them crackles enough to intrigue girls but not enough to turn off boys. As they world together to stop the Clockwork guild it’s very clear that Modo is interested in Octavia, but is afraid of what she’ll think if she sees the real him. This thread is left unresolved, but they’ll most likely be reunited to fight evil another day.
This book is fast paced, sometimes almost too fast. But Slade’s alternate Victorian London is still rich and gritty, the story full of plot twists and turns. Filled with non-stop action, peril, gadgets, intrigue, and just a hint of innocent romance this book should be a hit with both boys and girls tween/younger teen set.