FICTION

Brightstorm

Norton. Mar. 2020. 352p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781324005643.
COPY ISBN
Gr 3-6–A Victorian steampunk quest with an unusual company of travelers. Twelve-year-old twins Maud and Arthur Brightstorm lost their father in a terrible accident as he searched for the South Pole of their alternate-Earth world. A heartless insurance company flack has taken their home and all their possessions, and they’re living with a couple of ne’er-do-wells who force them to cook, clean, and work to support their household. Eager to find their father, they enlist with explorer Harriet Culpepper as she pilots her balloon sky-ship Aurora to the Ice Continent. Deceitful enemies, narrow escapes, and giant wolves propel the plot along as the young voyagers gain independence and make lifelong friends. Maud is an engineering prodigy who has already designed a prosthetic for her twin. Arthur is a writer and thinker whose missing right arm informs but never defines his character. Strong, athletic Harriet and towering ship’s cook Felicity Wiggety are powerful adventurers in a narrative with overtones of both Charles Dickens and Philip Pullman. Character descriptions and occasional illustrations portray the travelers as light-skinned people from an alternate-England country. The company reprovisions along the way in a land with two kings whose affectionate relationship sets the tone for their welcoming, environmentally friendly city. The Brightstorm twins learn of the misdeeds of a rival explorer family which parallel those of actual Victorian explorers: thoughtless depredations of the plants and animals they find and terrible abuse of Indigenous people. A satisfying conclusion to the quest leaves room for more exploits from the intrepid crew of the Aurora.
VERDICT A ripsnorting yarn with broad appeal for tweens.

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