Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews



Jacqueline E Garlick
Fiction  Series
For ages 13 and up
Skyscape, 2015   ISBN: 978-1503944558

When she was still a child, Eyelet and her mother went to a fair. Eyelet saw a marvelous mechanical elephant that delighted her. Later she observed a carny demonstrating a machine called the Illuminator that could take a special picture of objects so that you could see what was inside them. Eyelet realized that the machine was one that her inventor father had built. She could not imagine how the carny had got the device. Her father had promised that he would use the Illuminator to find the source of Eyelet’s seizures, so why would he give the precious machine to the carny? Though she was small and just a child, Eyelet confronted the carny and asked him how he got the Illuminator. Her mother dragged Eyelet away and the carny started to chase them, which was when there was a bright flash in the sky.

Ever since that terrible day the people in Eyelet’s world have lived in an “eternal twilight.” For some reason since what came to be called “the Great Illumination” took place the sun has not shone. Clouds hang over the land, refusing to dissipate. Eyelet’s beloved father also disappeared that day and now, nine years later, she is still trying to find his machine, the Great Illuminator. Eyelet desperately hopes it can heal her brain and stop the seizures. Having seizures is a practically a crime in Brethren, the town where she lives, and if the authorities find out about them Eyelet will be deemed insane and locked up in an asylum. All this time Eyelet and her mother have been keeping the seizures a secret as best they can, but they will not be able to do so forever. A cure has to be found.

Eyelet manages to ‘borrow’ one of her father’s journals from the Academy and is in the process of returning it when she is stopped by Professor Smrt. He knows about the missing journal and he confronts Eyelet, making her lose her temper. He immediately reminds her that “sudden breaks in temperament are considered the first diagnosable sign of Madness in the Commonwealth.” Then Eyelet hears that her mother has been accused of being a Valkyrie, a shape shifter, and that the council feels that she is guilty of “the practice of Wickedry.” Eyelet’s mother is going to be executed.

Eyelet desperately tries to get to her mother to save her, but by the time she gets to Piglingham Square, her mother is already bleeding from a neck wound. Soon she will be dipped in wax and left to dry and hang, like a human candle. Eyelet’s mother exhorts her daughter to leave her, to run away. She gives Eyelet a pendent and bids her to go. Eyelet is seen by soldiers and she has no choice but to run, and run she does.

Eyelet manages to slip out of Bretheren and gets to Gears, a settlement that is rife with violence and suffering. She knows, thanks to her father’s journal, that the Illuminator is in a warehouse there. By some miracle Eyelet manages to get to the warehouse unscathed, only to see that a man is loading the Illuminator into the back of a carriage. As the vehicle starts to roll away, a crowd attacks the man and his carriage. Desperate not to lose her father’s invention, Eyelet jumps onto the carriage as the horses pulling it gallop away. At first the young man tells Eyelet to “Get off!” Then something he sees in Eyelet’s face, her desperation perhaps, prompts him to pull her up and swing her into the back of the carriage. In the company of a stranger, who has the face of a carnival freak, Eyelet is carried away from the only world she has known into another world that is full of secrets and terrible dangers.

This is the first book in the Illumination Paradox series and it takes readers into a steampunk world where magic and science struggle to coexist. It is a cruel world full of villains and victims, and yet it also a world where kindness blooms in the most unlikely places. Readers will never quite know what to expect, and they will enjoying see how the two main characters change and evolve. Told from the point of view of both these characters, this is a thrilling and compelling story.