George and his neighbor, Ada, daughter of the poet Lord Byron, embark on a wild adventure involving flying machines, pirates, and stolen artifacts.
George, third Lord of Devonshire, is a cautious boy, convinced that he lives under a curse in his house at No. 8 Dorset Square. Both his reprobate father and adored grandfather died when George turned 10. George and a remaining family servant, Frobisher, live by selling off the furnishings in the house. When a thief attempting to take George’s grandfather’s legacy, a map to the legendary Star of Victory, a “stone that assured its owner of success in battle,” is thwarted by an ingenious mechanical bird, George follows the bird to No. 5, where he discovers that the bird’s inventor is Ada, a clever, fearless, and strong-minded girl. When Ada launches a mission to find the Star of Victory, artistic Oscar, who longs to find his pirate captain father, and Ruthie, a rescued baby orangutan, stow away on her flying machine. The journey takes the group to Lake Geneva and the prison of Chillon, then on to Venice and an encounter with Charles Darwin. Oscar, whose mother was Tahitian, is brown-skinned, while all the other characters are white. The breathless plot is jam-packed with roguish thieves, tantalizing clues, and mild intrigue, and the narrative is filled with wry humor and kindness as George gradually gives up his self-centered sense of doom. An author’s note provides some factual information about Ada Byron Lovelace.
A pleasing adventure. (Fantasy/steampunk. 9-12)