The fantastically imaginative opener to Bunzl’s Cogheart Adventures series is a steampunk story with faint echoes of The Little Princess.
Victorian-era Lily is always in trouble at the boarding school she attends; she’d rather be an air pirate than a proper young woman, and it shows in her adventurous spirit and appreciation of penny dreadfuls. Thanks to her father’s example, Lily has love and compassion for the seemingly sentient mechanicals that are used as servants. When her father mysteriously goes missing and Lily is removed from school by her evil guardian, Madame Verdigris, she must uncover her father’s secret, protect it, and find him. Enter Robert, a 13-year-old clockmaker’s apprentice. He’s drawn to Lily after he finds her pet mechanical fox, which has been injured. Together, they embark on a journey through an England filled with dirigibles, mechanical beings, and a darkness of spirit that neither knew existed. With great style and panache, the novel deftly winds through the intricacies of friendship and moral choice while maintaining a fun edge. Ages 8–12. Agent: Katelyn Detweiler, Jill Grinberg Literary. (Feb.)