Quest adventure, animal fantasy and baby steampunk all figure into this second madcap romp around the universe with hedgehogs Esmeralda and Trundle.
Aided by cheerful troubadour squirrel Jack Nimble, Trundle and Esmeralda dash from planet to planet in a vast outer-space archipelago, pursued by pirates. Badger Blocks (read: tarot cards) foresaw Trundle and Esmeralda gathering six ancient, hidden crowns that together wield great power; this second installment of six naturally focuses on the second crown, which is made of iron. They travel by skyboat, which resembles an old ocean vessel more than a spaceship: “We have to tack! Release the windward jib sheet.” Steampunky details also include conveniently present or absent gravity and oxygen, gadgets with “swinging pendulums… flickering dials… [and] whirring flywheels” and a massive clock with noisy “cogwheels and levers and hammers.” Animal protagonists are quite human, whether “apple-cheeked” or showing a “face red with wrath.” Jones’ plot is peppy and his prose funny, sporting excellent names—“Pounceman Donk”—and word strings—“the meanest, bloodthirstiest, wickedest pirate ever to sail the skies.” It’s only too bad that steampunk’s gypsy stereotype lives on: “Roamany” is shorthand for exotic, unreliable and greedy.
A fast and jolly gambol, with four more promised. (Steampunk. 7-10)