Hehir’s steampunk-inspired debut novel is an adventure through time and space.
In 1837 London, 14-year-old Julius Caesar Higgins spends his days dodging the local bully and helping at his grandfather’s rare-books shop. When a shady gentleman named Jack Springheel arrives looking for a mysterious diary, Julius runs away and makes a deal with him: self-defense lessons and a place to hide in exchange for the apparently long-lost diary of John Harrison, the 17th-century clockmaker and inventor of the chronometer. Harrison’s diary contains operating instructions for his third prototype, a time-travel device Springheel stole from its guardian, poet Percy Shelley. Seeing Springheel’s villainy, Julius teams up with professor Fox of the mysterious Guild of Watchmakers to stop him from using the device to take over a parallel world populated by repulsive but innovative creatures called Grackacks and exploiting Grackack technology to alter reality forever. Contemporary language (“gyp,” “Chinaman,” “oriental”) and the addition of historical figures, folklore and events lend an air of authenticity to the Victorian setting. The time-travel aspect can be a bit confusing, and readers may find themselves revisiting passages, but ultimately, they will be too wrapped up in the action to care. An epilogue hints at a second book.
Good, lively fun. (author’s note, glossary) (Fantasy. 12-15)