Children of the Flying City

Dutton. Mar. 2022. 416p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593109519.
Gr 4-6–There is a boy and he is quick, so quick he can escape the police as he thieves, so quick that he has named himself Milo Quick though that is not his name. There is a girl, if she can be called that. She is called Mouse, but her name is Dagda. She, like Milo, is pale skinned and dark haired, but a killing machine, 12 years old for hundreds of years. She is wanted by the Armada that is moving airships to surround the Flying City where they live. He is wanted by a suspicious group of people led by The Captain who are risking their lives for the money to extract him. Milo is also being watched by the dreaded Sandman, while Dagda is being repaired by a toymaker who does not have the skills or tools as the city is crumbling, and losing its knowledge of technology. Can they escape before they are killed? Will the only home they have known be destroyed? This steampunk world feels both fantastical and based in a reality of time past, focusing on children who live on the streets and create communities without adult supervision. It feels shabby and harsh with rotten teeth and greasy hair galore (although not much diversity in appearances), yet readers will want to visit because there is something magical about the place. The narrative style is unique but feels inconsistent, at times breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to readers and trying to create a tone not unlike that in “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” The point of view bounces around to a different character with each short chapter, some of them playing bit parts in the story. This narration style creates a barrier and prevents deeper emotional connection to the story. This book ends on a true cliffhanger, with everyone hanging in a balance.
VERDICT A great example of dystopian steampunk for middle graders, but some might find the narrative voice and style an obstacle.–

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