Bureau of Mysteries and The Mechanomancers by HJ Harper, illustrated by Nahum Ziersch (Random House Australia)
PB RRP $15.95
Also available as an ebook
Reviewed by Marian McGuinness
George Feather, chimney sweep and assistant cryptographer, is on the trail of the Mechanomancers, ‘ancient evil beings that mixed magic and technology to terrorise the world!’
In this sequel for 8 – 12 year olds, author, HJ Harper has created a fantastic, almost Dickensian world, melding genres of Steampunk, Western and Detective Novel with a pinch of James Bond thrown in. It’s a combination to intrigue most readers.
The young protagonist, George, with the aid of his Cryptographer’s Compendium (his code-breaking book) and his partner, Imp Spektor, have to save the mysterious metropolis of Little Obscurity. They team up with adventurer, Lord Periwinkle Tinkerton, who travels with his scribing assistant, Lexica Quill, in his mechanical mammothmobile.
Together they battle mechanical bulls and icebergs of garbage; they ride on a giant grey rat called Bubonic through the sewerage dungeons and joust giant lice.
George uses all the tools of the trade in his quest to eradicate the Mechanomancers. He has Antigravity Gauntlets and Eyeopener Goggles. There are skypirates and skydragons. The adventure twists and turns as each chapter ends on a hook.
The reader rollicks along with George as he comes across many codes that he has to crack. This is a strength of the book, as young readers will pit their wits against George, in the quest to work out the clues and eliminate the enemy.
There is clever wordplay throughout that keeps you chuckling. There are clichés and puns (the Clockness Monster, Joust in Time). The use of first person includes lots of internal dialogue, so you know what George Feather is thinking.
All is wonderfully illustrated in Nahum Ziersch’s stylised black and white panels that depict characters and scenes along the way.
Twist follows twist towards the last third of the book. You don’t know the goodies from the baddies as you weave in and out of the story. In the end, it’s down to the power of the pen … and the ability to decipher codes.