In which two teens and a mechanical pet fox are kidnapped into a flying circus.
Lily’s 14th birthday is a thorough letdown. Papa’s received an award from the Mechanists’ Guild, so her celebration’s been postponed until after the boring award ceremony full of stuffy men who sneer infuriatingly about hybrids—humans who have some mechanical parts. (None of them knows, of course, that Lily herself is a forbidden hybrid, kept alive by the Cogheart.) How convenient that someone unknown has left her a parcel as an invitation to adventure, containing a creepy rhyme, a notebook of her dead mother’s, and VIP tickets to Slimwood’s Stupendous Skycircus. Accompanied by two human friends, Robert and Tolly, and Malkin the mechanimal fox, Lily attends this unpleasant show, where the attractions are miserable-looking hybrid teens. The kids resolve to rescue the show’s star, the winged girl Angelique, but she, Robert, and Malkin are nabbed themselves. In a heavy-handed disability storyline, the circus owners treat the hybrid characters as grotesques on display. Though the hybrids’ existence—with mechanical parts as prosthetics, a pacemaker, or a post-human transcendence of brittle bones—raises interesting questions, they’re resolved with a bland message of universal humanity. Angelique’s blackness in this overwhelmingly white world, on the other hand, barely rates a mention. Still, the pacing is exhilarating despite a surfeit of meaningful speeches.
Series fans will still enjoy this entry, though the earnest overwhelms the playful. (map, glossary) (Steampunk fantasy. 10-13)