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by Arthur Slade

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-73784-5
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Steampunk is hot, and here the tropes are further enlivened by literary shout-outs. Hunchbacked Modo (abandoned near Notre Dame as an infant) possesses the astounding ability to transform his appearance for a limited time. His mysterious benefactor serves England, but it is Modo and lovely fellow “agent” Octavia whose adventures save the day from mad Dr. Hyde’s inventions and the plotting of the Clockwork Guild. Modo’s palpable loneliness—his true face causes intense revulsion—evokes sympathy and makes his success that much more meaningful. Fast action carries the story through awkward dialogue; fortunately, doing and thinking rather than talking takes center stage. Regular glimpses from the villain’s perspectives allows readers to fully appreciate Slade’s inventive imagination—their technology involves robots, potions and imprisoned orphans. The escape of most of the baddies is almost welcome as it means they can all lock horns again, and the question of whether Modo will show Octavia his true self remains unanswered. An excellent start to a promising new series. (Fantasy. 12 & up)