Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

Emma Trevayne
For ages 9 to 12
Simon and Schuster, 2014   ISBN: 978-1442498778

Most boys are happy to leave their boarding school to spend their summer vacation with their families at home. Jack Foster is not. He likes his life at school and wishes his parents would let him stay there in the summer. At home there is nothing to do other than to spy on his mother (who ignores him most of the time) when she is entertaining, and to do what the cook, Mrs. Pond, tells him to do. Jack rarely sees his father.

   Then one day a man called Mr. Havelock comes to Jack’s house to entertain Jack’s mother and her lady friends. He is some kind of medium and Jack is fascinated by the tall thin man who wears dark glasses. Mr. Havelock comes back several times and then one day Jack hears the man tell his mother that he would like Jack to be his apprentice. Jack would love to have such an opportunity. How wonderful it would be to learn from an interesting man who appears to be a magician as well as a spiritualist. Unfortunately Jack’s mother firmly declines Mr. Havelock’s offer.

   Jack deeply resents his mother’s refusal of Mr. Havelock’s proposition, and when Jack sees the man in the park the next day he follows him. Mr. Havelock opens a hidden door at the base of the tower housing Big Ben, and Jack manages to sneak in after him without being seen before the door closes. Inside the tower Jack loses Mr. Havelock. There is nothing for him to do other than to return to the park and face Mrs. Pond’s wrath. She will surely be furious that he left the park without asking if he may do so.

   At first everything seems normal, though Jack is a little surprised that Mrs. Pond is not waiting for him at the park. He is reasonably confident that he will be able to find his way home, so he is not too worried. He asks a man for directions and though the man is strange looking, Jack isn’t really concerned. The man tells him how to get to Mayfair and Jack sets off. Then he comes to Birdcage Walk and he sees that there is a large birdcage by the road and in it there is a girl, a very odd girl. He soon figures out that the girl is a clockwork device, and when he winds her up she starts talking to him. She tells him that her name is Beth and she ends up escorting him home.

   When Jack and Beth get to where Jack’s house should be, it isn’t there. Clearly Jack is not in his London, the one where his family home is located. He is in another London, one where clockwork faeries and dragons fly around in the sky and where magic and science are intertwined.

   Jack soon finds out that Mr. Havelock is really a man called Lorcan who works for The Lady, the ruler of this world. Apparently The Lady wants a son of her own, a flesh and blood boy, and Lorcan was given the job of getting her the son she craves. Jack was the boy Lorcan chose, which was why he came to Jack’s house posing as a spiritualist. Jack is very taken with the idea of living with The Lady in her palace. She at least will pay attention to him and spend time with him, which his real mother rarely does. Finally he will have the life that he was meant to have.

   In this fascinating novel the author combines magic and steampunk to bring readers a world that is full of surprises. It is interesting to see how Jack and the other characters evolve and change as the story unfold, and one cannot help wondering if Jack really knows what he is getting himself into.