From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-In the world of New London, science has replaced religion, and magic and witchcraft are considered heretical. Machinery is powered by the mysterious substance, Myth. Vespa Nyx, 17, is the daughter of a scholar who works at the Museum of Unnatural History. Although she wishes to spend her life cataloging Unnatural creatures, she is being pressured to marry and abandon her studies. After a near-fatal encounter with a captive Sphinx at the museum and a mysterious Pedant named Hal, Vespa begins to realize that she is in fact the last surviving witch in New London. In a parallel plot, Syrus Reed, member of an indigent Tinker clan, is forced into hiding after a raid in which members of his family are killed or kidnapped and forced to work in the Myth refinery. The Tinkers are the only inhabitants of New London who openly respect and acknowledge the Unnatural creatures, which they refer to as Elementals and see as essential to the balance of the world order. Predictably, Vespa and Syrus find themselves working together to save their world. This is an entertaining mix of steampunk and fantasy. It is very plot-driven, with some intriguing world-building details, such as the origin story of New London involving Saint Tesla, and the stained-glass window depicting Saint Pasteur smiting the Demon Byron. Readers may be confused about the workings of this fantasy world unless they have read the short story "The Emperor's Man" in the anthology Corsets and Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, 2011), which is a prequel to this novel.-Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
In this gaslight fantasy, parts of Victorian London have been transported to a land inhabited by creatures from myth. Dubbed unnaturals, they are on the verge of being exterminated by a corrupt government. Though Saint Darwin’s Church of Science and Technology reigns supreme and magic has been forbidden, an odious sorcerer schemes to kill the last manticore and use the dragon’s heart it guards to power a device that will reopen the gate between worlds. Against him are 16-year-old Vespa, a naive exhibit preparator in the Museum of Unnatural History, and younger teen Syrus, member of a clan of downtrodden Tinkers (modeled on a Chinese ethnic minority group, the author claims). To no evident purpose, Trent switches her narrative’s tense and person in alternate chapters. But along with providing Vespa with magical powers of her own, an upper-class rebel magician as a romantic foil, and a genuinely nasty opponent, the author crafts an engagingly violent, suspenseful tale that leads to a wild climax and, in the end, just deserts all round. Grades 6-9. --John Peters