From School Library Journal
Grade 4–7—In an alternate 18th-century London, 12-year-old Cirrus Flux is one of the oldest orphans at the foundling hospital and he is still waiting to be selected for an apprenticeship. He suddenly becomes the object of interest to members of the mysterious "Guild" because of a magical orb his father once possessed. At the same time, Pandora is sent from the foundling hospital to work for the mysterious mesmerist, Madame Orrery. The two orphans end up embroiled in intrigue surrounding the orb and try to prevent it from falling into unfriendly hands. They are aided by Mr. Hardy, who travels in a hot-air balloon kept aloft by a flame-feathered bird. This is a fast-paced, plot-driven story. The motivations of the characters are occasionally unclear and the world building a bit uneven. However, readers who are drawn into the action won't have a great deal of time to worry about these issues. Cirrus and Pandora are likable and self-reliant main characters. Unfortunately, the ending may feel like a letdown to some, since it's never clear exactly what purpose the power contained in Cirrus's orb could serve. Still, young readers who are looking for books like Eoin Colfer's Airman
(Hyperion, 2008) and Philip Reeve's Larklight
(Bloomsbury, 2006) and its sequels should enjoy Cirrus's adventures.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
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Skelton (Endymion Spring, 2006) neatly weaves touches of fantasy into a late-eighteenth-century London setting. The story begins in the Antarctic Circle, where seaman James Flux discovers an ethereal substance known as God’s Breath. He unwittingly captures a bit of it in a small trinket, which years later he leaves with his newborn son, Cirrus, at an orphanage. The boy Cirrus becomes prey for a glacial woman determined to have what the keepsake holds. The nods to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series are evident, but with all his knack for crafting compelling details (a bird made of fire that creates lift for a hot-air balloon; an intricate system of lenses that enables a scheming invalid to see into every corner of the city), Skelton mostly turns the story into a whirl of characters pinballing about London, never fully mining what God’s Breath is all about. His literary sensibility and grubby atmospherics are strong enough to carry the tale, though readers may be left wondering if they aren’t missing a more interesting story somewhere in here. Grades 4-7. --Ian Chipman