The Night Watchman Express is a very ambitious story with numerous settings and a large cast, but the author so skillfully guides the reader that it isn't until the end that we look back and say: "Wow! We really went through a lot!"
The rich pallet of main characters are, for the most part, strangers to one another at the onset, so we don't step into a story already in progress, but rather learn the characters and situations as the characters themselves discover what is unfolding. The characters are well defined, yet dynamic and complex. A good writer may achieve two of those three characteristics for a small number of characters, but only a great writer can achieve the level of development we see in this tale with as broad a cast as the one this story offers.
The writing style is relaxed and natural and never distracts from the story, while giving the reader all the information he or she needs. As characters speak, we don't just know their words, but we also see the actions and body language that accompany those words. Those non-verbal clues allow us to really understand what is happening at a higher level than we would get from simple dialogue.
We can tell there's something big going on and the bits and pieces are revealed masterfully. There are a lot of surprises, but hints leading to those surprises are dropped like breadcrumbs on each page so that when they are revealed, it's a pleasant feeling of watching the pieces fall into place - as opposed to a sense of: "Hey, where did that come from?".
There are numerous settings and each is well defined and offers a unique mood to that portion of the story. Overall a masterfully spun tale that leaves the reader feeling that they didn't simply read a story, but rather experienced it.
Book Review: The Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca
I'd never read a Steampunk novel until The Night Watchman Express crossed my path and I wasn't sure if it would be `my thing', but I'd read a few of the 5-star reviews on Amazon and decided to give it a try.
By the end of the first chapter I was hooked! The characters are larger than life: Miriam, Simon and Neil are loveable and you find yourself really caring about them and the twists and turns in their young lives. Mana is enigmatic yet extremely likeable and the Marchpanes are foul creatures that you take an instant dislike to.
The story is fast-paced; the plot and subplots have so many cliffhangers and hooks, you just have to keep reading. The world-building is superior with superb description - you can so easily picture the places in your mind, and that, to me, is the mark of a very skilled writer. This book would appeal to adults as well as children. It is entertaining, suspenseful and is so well written, it draws you in. Now, I HAVE to buy the sequel, Devil's Kitchen, just to find out what happens next. That again is the mark of a consummate author if they leave you breathlessly needing to buy the next book in the series!
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book and would give it more than 5-stars if I could! Alison DeLuca has an enormous talent and deserves every bit of success that comes her way.
This tale combines everything that makes for a good story: well crafted characters, good plot and great adventures.
Alison DeLuca hits the ground running in the opening chapters of 'The Night Watchman Express', and the story never stops moving until the last page. Miriam, an unhappy young girl is orphaned when her wealthy industrialist father dies. With no other family, her father's business partners, the Marchpanes, become her guardians. The Marchpanes immediately move into Miriam's house, and take over her father's rooms. (Mrs. Marchpane is deliciously evil.) They make their attempt to gain full control of Miriam's money and her father's company.
Gradually, Miriam begins to find common ground with the Marchpane's son and their other young `guest' when a nanny who is both wise and skilled in certain magics is hired. Mana is a woman who is of a race of people, who are considered to be second-class citizens, and contrary to the Marchpane's hopes, she turns out to be exactly what both Miriam and the two boys needed.
There is a reluctant camaraderie that develops between Miriam and the the two boys. The three of them do a certain amount of exploring the grounds of the estate, and discover a strange machine that her father has constructed. Another interesting thread is also Miriam's strange emotional attachment to her father's typewriter-like machine, which she has claimed for her own since his death, and keeps hidden in her room.
The Marchpanes are not pleased by Mana's good influence on Miriam, and they fear her. They fire Mana and get rid of Miriam.
Nightly Miriam has heard the mournful Night Watchman Express, a mysterious train that passes close to her home, on its way to a sinister place called Devil's Kitchen where children are enslaved, and become subjects of evil experiments. Though she has never known where it actually went, the sound of it has terrified her.
In the course of her adventures, Miriam becomes a strong young woman, and her resourcefulness and courage make for a great adventure. Mana is much more than she appears to be on the surface, and the two boys have parts to play in the story. All of the characters are clearly drawn, and the threads of the story are woven seamlessly through each of the protagonist's stories to make a wonderful fantasy adventure.
The story is told almost as if it were a fairy tale, but it has a gritty steampunk quality that makes it a perfect rainy weekend read. There is danger, there is darkness, and suspense; there is a serious good vs. evil plot. I found that I was thinking about the characters at the end, and wondering what was going to happen next. This story captured my interest from page one, and kept me reading all the way through it to the end. I enjoyed it immensely, and I am looking forward to reading more of DeLuca's work.
I really loved this book. It reminded me strongly of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. (The Golden Compass etc.) The three main characters are likeable and believable as they struggle to understand the hidden perfidy of the adults in control of their lives. It's a great coming of age novel too. I'd recommend it to anyone who liked THE GOLDEN COMPASS and it's sequels, or Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle books. It has the same sense of magic, mystery and intrigue. Although there are occasional typos throughout, the story is so strong they are easy to get past. I devoured it in two long sittings.
Spin a yarn...an old saying that seemed appropriate when reviewing this wonderful steam-punk book.
The children's characters are developed well, and realistic. The evil Marchpanes are well-written; I could envision them. And enter the mysterious "Mana"--who added a whole other layer to the story. The mystery continues to deepen as the children become friends, and then the adventure is on as they risk everything to rescue each other.
A lonely train whistle at midnight, a big old house, a mysterious nanny, and an even more mysterious disappearance follow.
Good book. I have the ebook. I will be buying a printed copy for my grandchildren for when they are old enough to read middle-grade works.
The Night Watchman Express is a wild train ride that spans so far it's almost hard to describe. With the luxurious descriptions of typical Victorian era scenery and exotic tropical islands, DeLuca manages to suspend disbelief when introducing the fantasy elements into this story. Despite the bright cheeriness surrounding most of the characters, there is usually an undertone of darkness that creates a more realistic world. And when the surroundings are gloomy and depressing, sparks of humor are injected in appropriate places. There are stories within stories and the pieces of the ever intriguing mystery fall into place at just the right intervals to keep the reader interested. Some of the elements and language may be slightly difficult for younger readers to understand, but that is not a downside. It makes the reader think and if necessary, do a little research. I wish there had been books like this when I was in school. It's definitely a fun adventure that even adults can enjoy.
I just finished reading Alison DeLuca's The Night Watchman Express and one word immediately comes to mind. "WOW!" This book was simply amazing. The characters of Miriam, Mana, Simon, Neil, and Riki are all so very well done. Although I have to say that Riki was my favorite. She was one of the most unique and fun characters that I've met in a novel in years. I also really loved the character of Mana. Such a complex and mysterious woman! The Night Watchman Express reminded me a little bit of the Lemony Snicket "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books, but I have to say that I enjoyed The Night Watchman Express more. I can't wait to start the sequel, called "The Devil's Kitchen", and then follow it up with "The Lamplighter's Special". Bravo Ms. DeLuca for creating such an original and well written book! Kind regards Dean Lappi
This adventure story has something for everyone - an orphaned girl tamed by a mysterious governess and partnered with two unlikely companions Simon and Neil on an epic odyssey, her guardians the Marchpanes who have less than charitable motives, an exotic and magical island nation, and a secret factory that links these worlds and characters together. It begins with the ominous sound of the train.
Some of my favorite childhood adventure tales, like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, were only missing one thing - a heroine. We have that in Miriam, who holds her own with the boys in the story, as does the courageous Ms. Postulate. This is a story I look forward to sharing with my children. In addition to a great story, the larger themes dealing with oppression, exploitation, greed, and abuse of a powerful substance that could blow laudanum (hey, it was the Victorian poison of choice) off the map can serve as a teaching tool.
Plus, my daughter, the budding writer, will adore Miriam and her stories.
I'd also like to ask Ms. Deluca to let me know when a direct flight to Lampala opens. The food sounds divine!
I love the title, The Night Watchman Express, I love the cover graphic, and I love the way the sound of the lonely train whistle in the distance all come together to create a sense of mystery and foreboding - a childhood scariness - that pervades the story. The dreams as portents are well done, as are Mana's mysterious power over people which, it seemed to me, she could have made use of more often. The writing is smooth and rhythmic, providing an easy read.
At times, I thought the story dragged with lengthy and unnecessary description and redundancy. For example: "There was a small pop, which evidently was the small bottle being uncorked. Neil heard a series of slobbering, swallowing sounds followed by a loud `Aahhh.'" As it's evident that someone is taking a drink, the explanation of "the small bottle being uncorked" seems unneeded. I like a meandering story and descriptive asides as much as anyone (okay, maybe not) but on occasion, just as the story is taking off, the momentum is slowed to a stop while characters' eat, take a bath, or nap. With Miriam in The Devil's Kitchen, Neil is out gallivanting around with Ginger and her entourage. Description and characterization are fine, but not at the expense of the story losing momentum. Without going into detail here, I feel that some of the characters acted, well, out of character. One example being Neil's convincing Weko to jeopardize himself and his family to help save Mana all over dinner. It just didn't seem in character based on the character development over the previous pages.
A few stylistic points that chafed included: "Neil nodded confusedly," "Neil repeated unbelievingly," and "Neil frowned ferociously." I suppose exclamation points are a subjective thing: "She has wounded me, I fear! In the leg, Theodosia!" I prefer to use exclamation for ... exclamations. "Stop!"
Not having been an early fan of self-publishing and e-publishing, I've been coming around to the potential they hold. As time goes on, I'm sure that self- and e-published books will continue to improve. Recently, I've read several well-done examples. Unfortunately, many still suffer from formatting and grammatical errors unseen in traditionally published books.
Several formatting errors jumped out at me in "The Night Watchman." Unintended indents, usually occurring in dialogue, where all lines of dialogue are indented instead of just the first line. Occasional capitalization and underlining are used for emphasis in lieu of italics. These may seem like small things, but anything that throws the reader from the story world should be minimized.
None of these problems is unsalvageable. Some purging, editing, and a bit of rewriting will only tighten up and improve an already promising story and polish a professional product any author would be proud of. You've got a great story here with great potential for a series.
BTW. I kept wondering how the mysterious Crown Phoenix and the strange metal circles on the beach would play into the plot, and was disappointed that they never played out, at least in this installment.
This was a good suspenseful read. I never read this genre before so I didn't know what to expect. What I got was a mystery, a little horror, greed, fantasy and characters to root for. I was glued to this because I wanted Theodosia to get hers. I've recommended this book to others becuase it's that good.