I loved this thrilling story with a Dickensian feel. The Book Who Flew is brimful of murder, a chilling, sinister villain, rooftop escapes, adventure and a brave hero who has dreams, secrets and a warm heart.
Athan Wilde and his friend and mentor, Mr Chen, share a secret. In the heart of the city, in the rooms of Mr Chen’s house, they are working together on creating a flying machine. Athan dreams of soaring over the rooftops and his mysterious friend has the knowledge to turn these dreams into reality. Then one dreadful day the gentle Mr Chen is brutally murdered and Athan, together with his friend Tod, resolve to stop the flying machine from falling into the wrong hands. But their plans put them both at great risk and gradually Athan’s family are drawn into the mounting danger and Athan faces a dreadful decision. Does he choose his dreams of flight or the family he loves?
There is much to enjoy in this new adventure from Fleur Hitchcock. From the opening pages the reader enters a world of narrow streets, dark buildings, steep rooftops, and poverty but with friendship and family at the heart of Athan’s life. This world feels both different and realistic and once we are part of it the adventure, and in particular the characters, draw the reader in and the tension mounts to an utterly thrilling and moving climax.
This, I felt, had a real Dickensian feel to it. The city itself, although inspired, I think by Bath, reminded me of Dickens’s London and the distinctive characters such as the sinister Colonel Blade and Athan’s slightly grotesque Grandma all fit perfectly into this world. The relationship between Athan and his friend Tod and his own family give the story its heart. It is in fact Athan’s love for his family and in particular his frail younger sister, Beatty, that eventually puts his own life at risk. The plot is engrossing and the gradual build up of tension and danger is well done. There are some gruesome events described which those of a sensitive disposition may find a little unsettling but this is a wonderful thriller for children having all the components that keep a reader hooked. By the final third of the book the pace of the story and my growing attachment to the characters resulted in that curious mixture of me wanting to find out what happened but not wanting to say goodbye. It takes a good story to do that! Thank you, Fleur Hitchcock.
Recommended to readers who have enjoyed Peter Bunzl’s or Philip Pullman’s books. The wonderful cover, sadly not on my review copy, is by Ben Mantle. However the little golden paper bird I received with my proof now holds a greater significance and will be carefully treasured.
Thank you very much to Nosy Crow for providing my copy.