Fighting pirates and waking a phoenix in a volcano are the two primary events in this third installment of a six-part outer-space animal-steampunk adventure.
Hedgehogs Trundle and Esmeralda, with their pal Jack the troubadour squirrel, are bashing around outer space, hunting down six crowns of power. The pirates finally catch up with them, and there’s a swashbuckling battle with various weaponry and explosions. As ever, Jones breezily whips up his own steampunk-flavored natural laws and workings (skyboats are wind-powered, and when wind is low, treadles and propellers do the trick; outer space has dawn, dusk and the objective directions “upward” and “downward”). These are leavened with a touch of classic fantasy science (a “powerstone” keeps each vessel afloat). A long farting scene and a sulfur, treacle and brimstone potion will delight fans of all things stinky. Action moves swiftly, and language is blusterously playful (“Kill ’em to death, y’ swabs!”). Readers who enjoy predictable plots and procedure—one crown per book—will be well satisfied. Others will chafe at the slapdash rhymes that resist scansion (“This clue you have found in the phoenix bird’s fire. / You must seek for the Crown of Ice in the land of Spyre!”). Old age, scars, mental illness and ethnicity (Esmeralda is “Roamany”) get cheap stereotyping.
Fast-moving quest fantasy with cool vocabulary and a quickly written vibe. (Animal steampunk. 7-10)