From School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-Katherine Tulman, 17, faces an impossible decision when she arrives at Stranwyne Keep, in 1852. Her avaricious aunt wishes to seize the profitable estate and orders Katherine's visit so that she may declare her husband insane. Upon her arrival, however, Katherine learns that her eccentric uncle's clockwork factory employs hundreds of individuals plucked from workhouses. Doing her aunt's bidding would undoubtedly send them back into poverty. Katherine receives a warm welcome from her likely autistic uncle and a quirky village girl, Mary Brown. Her uncle's brooding assistant and his aunt treat her with greater suspicion. Katherine wonders if she, like her Uncle Tully, is losing her grip on reality as she struggles with nighttime visions. She must decide between her self-interest and her uncle's well-being even as more sinister characters begin to emerge. Cameron's debut novel reads like a steampunk fantasy. Detailed descriptions of the keep and grounds make for admirable world-building. Secret passages, canals, and Victorian furnishings drip from every page. Tully's clockwork creations seem wondrous, even eerily animated, adding to the story's chilling sense of dread. The villain's identity will be obvious to readers, and Katherine wavers overlong in her deliberations, but teens are not likely to mind as they experience Katherine's romantic and moral dilemma. Hand this to fans of Kenneth Oppel or Libba Bray, and readers who pursue history, invention, or romance. They will find Cameron's scientific fable to their taste.-Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CTα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Seventeen-year-old Katharine Tullman is faced with an onerous task: her mean-spirited and acerbic Aunt Alice is sending her to Stranwyne to commit her Uncle Tully to an asylum, thus saving the family fortune that he is rumored to be depleting. While he is admittedly strange—he would probably be labeled autistic today—his estate and fantastical creations are providing the means to rescue families from the poorhouse, allowing them to live together as they care for him and the property. First-time novelist Cameron has based this delightful tale on the fifth Duke of Portland’s Victorian estate, Welbeck Abbey, which provided work for poor families in a similar manner during the 1850s. A Sue Alexander Award winner, Cameron has created characters worthy of this larger-than-life estate and a plot that is as convoluted and surprising as the house itself. With villains morphing into friends and friends morphing into foes, the novel, while perhaps not an easy sell, will reward those readers who enjoy historical fiction served up with a dash of the strange, the mysterious, and the romantic. Grades 7-12. --Frances Bradburn