cover image The Tin Princess

The Tin Princess

Philip Pullman. Alfred A. Knopf, $16 (290pp) ISBN 978-0-679-84757-1

Fans of Sally Lockhart, heroine of the Victorian-era thrillers that concluded with The Ruby in the Smoke , may at first be disappointed that, as Mrs. Goldberg, Sally has only a minor role here. However, Pullman more than makes it up to his audience by introducing a marvelous heroine, plucky 16-year-old Becky, and by bringing back--in starring roles--the resourceful Jim, Sally's former assistant, and the incomparable Adelaide, who disappeared as a child in Shadow in the North . This action-packed romp, in plot and mitteleuropaische setting, is a breathtaking blend of Saturday matinee cliffhanger and Viennese light opera. Pullman throws in everything but the kitchen sink: a secret marriage, spies, bombings, Machiavellian schemes, regicide, a vengeful Spanish actress, even Otto von Bismarck and that hoariest of chestnuts, a secretly imprisoned mad prince. In less able hands, this bulging confection would burst apart, but it all works due to impeccable pacing, sly social commentary and superb characterizations. Adelaide and Jim make an even more electrifying couple than did Sally and her ill-fated lover. Readers are sure to clamor for more. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)