Discovering that everything he knew—even his name!—was a lie is only the beginning of a very weird day for 13-year-old Jack Buckles.
All-American white boy Jack stumbles across his secret heritage as a forbidden 13th generation of top-secret “trackers” with supersensory abilities, operating under the cover of the Lost Property Office. He teams up with Gwen Kincaid, spunky white Ministry of Trackers clerk and detective-in-training, in a mad scramble across past and present London for a mysterious deadly artifact capable of starting a second Great Fire. Hannibal crafts an adventure with brisk pacing but little originality or internal logic. The covert subterranean world of the Elder Ministries is cobbled together from high-tech gimcrackery, steampunk affectations, and coy allusions to British literature both famous and obscure; the clues shaping Jack and Gwen’s quest are mostly tourist-y factoids. Jack is the stereotypical “chosen one” hero; even untrained, his “neuroscientific” gifts might as well be magical. Clever and competent Gwen is too often reduced to “bouncing freckles” and expository infodumping (usually withholding crucial details to manufacture artificial suspense), while Jack always fights just a bit better and solves the most important riddles. The villain is a cartoon of a sinister Frenchman; the rest of (apparently all-white) London is populated by clichés: tea-sipping constables, starchy bureaucrats, and h-dropping oafs.
Mindless entertainment. (Adventure. 11-14)