Reviews

Review: Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Although I bought this book when it first came out last year, I’ve only just managed to get around to reading it, and it didn’t disappoint:

Cogheart is a middle grade steampunk adventure story, revolving around Lily, a thirteen year old who is much more interested in her penny dreadfuls than learning the proper posture befitting a young lady, Robert, the local clockmaker’s son, and Malkin, Lily’s mechanical fox.

It starts out with Lily’s father’s airship being attacked, and as Malkin (who is the only other person on board) has a better chance of surviving the crash, he is sent out in the escape pod to find Lily at her boarding school with a cryptic message from her father. Unfortunately, he is shot by his pursuers, but Robert finds him and fixes him.

Meanwhile, news of her father’s ‘crash’ has reached Lily, and her father’s housekeeper, Madame Verdigris, has come to take her home. Though Lily wasn’t keen on before, when she sees that Madame has let her father’s mechs (mechanical people; a maid, gardener, chauffeur and cook) wind down, as well as rooting through her parents’ possessions, she begins to mistrust her even more. But it’s only when Lily finds out that Madame is searching for an object known as the ‘perpetual motion machine’, which her father had supposedly created, that she learns that Madame’s ambition to be head of the household is just the start – she’s actually working with the men behind Lily’s father’s disappearance.

When Robert, at Malkin’s request, comes to see Lily, he finds her locked in her room with only one way out – the window, where a small vine allows her to climb down mostly unscathed. However, the men working with Madame see her escape, and pursue them both back to Robert’s house, where only the presence of Robert’s Da keeps them away…for a time.

There’s a lot to like about this book. The setting of Victorian London, coupled with the description of the mechs, who work everywhere as servants and helpers, makes for a very rich world, and the integration of this alternate technology is carried out so well that I had no trouble accepting it as the norm. There’s also the moral question regarding how the mechs are perceived – do they really feel emotion? Can you count them as real people even though they’re made of cogs? Which of course carries the theme of acceptance of others, and for me, that’s a good thing.

I also felt that the main characters were strong and interesting – I could identify with Lily and Robert, and I absolutely loved Malkin’s personality. There were also some twists, but I admit I saw one straight away, and had suspicions of the other. Though of course, this book is aimed at a young audience, so it’s possibly just that. Then again, I imagine most kids would pick up on the clues peppered throughout, so it’s hard to say.

I enjoyed the ending, though at the time of reading, I found it a little anti-climatic. But again, as I’ve mentioned in other reviews, when I’m tired or distracted, I don’t enjoy things as much as normal, and I was very tired when I read the climax. The last chapter tied up all the loose ends nicely, and overall gave me that satisfied feeling of reaching the end of a good book.

So, would I recommend Cogheart as an exciting read for both kids and adults alike? Absolutely.

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