This book was written as childrenís Australian steampunk, and it ticks a lot of boxes. Thereís a feisty heroine, an orphan boy hero, an eccentric uncle, and plenty of lighthouses, inventions, and steam trains. But it just doesnít work.
I believe the main flaw is that the characters sit around talking far too much (and the characters arenít all THAT interesting), and the action scenes tend to be short and lacking in suspense. I spotted a couple of grammar mistakes here and there Ė which is an editorís fault, not the authorís fault. The eccentric uncle was an extremely boring person, who rambled on constantly. Worse still was the convict who showed up partway through, and talked in virtually unintelligible drivel for the rest of his scenes. While itís great to write hero characters with flaws, some flaws Ė whining, rambling, conceitedness, or simply being annoying Ė are best left out in real life, where thereís enough of them. This book featured all but whining (the Achilles heel of Harry Potter).
Iíve read another (more recent) book by James Roy Ė Anonymity Jones. It has no fantastical elements (so didnít particularly grab me Ė teenage life without dragons was boring enough to live through, so I have no desire to revisit it through books), but was much better written than this book.
Rating: G/PG Ė some mild violence.
My mother died on the day that I was born, or so I am told by the Major. He tells me that I was born very early in the morning, just as the birds were awakening. He also tells me that my mother saw my little face and smiled, before dying. Itís very sad, I know, but there it is.