Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Richard Harland
For ages 14 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2012   ISBN: 978-1442423336

Three months ago, the Upper Decks people on the juggernaut Worldshaker were removed from their position of power. Now they no longer oppress the Filthies, the people who manned the engines of the great vessel, and they no longer keep the Filthies trapped Below in the lower regions of the juggernaut. One of the Upper Decks people, Col Porpentine, and his Filthy friend Riff brought about a revolution, and now everything is different. The Worldshaker has been renamed the Liberator, and now everyone living on the juggernaut is supposed to be equal. In theory.

The truth is that now the Upper Decks people, the Swanks, are looked down upon. Not surprisingly, the Filthies, resenting years of oppression, are turning against the Swanks. With every passing day, the resentment and distrust builds, and now Col is not sure what lies in the future for him and his kind. Riff no longer spends time with Col, and the special bond that they once shared seems to be gone.

The situation on the Liberator only gets worse when an anti-Filthy saboteur starts to damage parts of the juggernaut. Then one of the Filthies gets killed, and a Filthy called Lye starts to gain power. With her striking looks and her total devotion to the revolutionary cause, Lye makes Col feel decidedly uncomfortable. Riff seems to be falling under Lye’s spell, and Col does not know how much longer the Swanks can hold out.

When it becomes clear that the Liberator needs to take on a load of coal so that its engines can continue to work, the Filthies decide that they will go to the coaling station in Botany Bay. They know that the authorities there will not want to trade with a juggernaut that is under Filthy control, so they ask the former leaders of the Liberator to be the ones to convince the imperialist leaders at Botany Bay to give them the coal they so desperately need.

Though the former queen and her consort, Victoria and Albert, do their best to play their parts, Sir Peggerton, the governor of Botany Bay, finds out that the Liberator is no longer under imperialist control and all hell breaks loose. No one imagines then that battles, betrayal, and treachery lie in the future.

In this second book in Richard Harlan’s remarkable steampunk series, the story begun in Worldshaker is continued. Every time readers think they understand what is going on, something new happens that is unexpected and surprising. Both the light and the dark sides of the human spirit are explored, and readers will be thrilled to see what Col, Riff, and their friends and family members do to try to save themselves and their way of life.