Synopsis: An exciting subterranean London adventure, the first in a middle-grade trilogy. Hyacinth Hayward has recently arrived from America and is having difficulty adjusting to her new surroundings, especially being in the sole company of her eccentric mother. Everything feels strange. Very strange. And it gets stranger the day she accidentally unleashes the power of a secret river running through London. To prevent a second Great Fire, Hyacinth needs to retrieve a single, magically charged drop of water from somewhere in the city sewer system. Along the way she encounters an eclectic cast of characters – the shambling, monstrous Saltpetre Men who kidnap her mother, the Toshers who battle for control of magical artefacts and a giant pig with whom she has a tea party. The clock is ticking – will she figure out who to trust? (From Walker Books Website.)
- The stakes are high. Do not take the official death toll from the Great Fire of London seriously – as this letter to the Guardian points out, the lives of many poor Londoners were never recorded, let alone their deaths. We’re talking obliteration here. If that isn’t bad enough, her mother has been kidnapped. How will Hyacinth cope with such pressure?
- Although this has a modern-day setting, it sounds Wonderlandish in terms of its characters. Tea parties with giant pigs, and the delightfully named ‘Toshers’. It sounds Frances Hardinge-esqe in terms of its population. I hope, as in Hardinge’s work, this world and its eclectic demographic will come with BACKSTORY.
- I’m a Londoner – I grew up and lived in London for 26 years. Where adult fiction often dwells (most boringly, in my opinion,) on the-state-of-the-capital, children’s fiction tends to be more adventurous with London’s streets. One consequence of this, which delights the Londoner in me, is more attention is paid to specific areas of London. If you’ve spent any time in the capital, you’ll know one street feels different to the next. (disclaimer in the interest of balance – Jamarach’s Menagerie does this well. Interestingly, it is a coming-of-age novel. I would recommend it to older teens.)
- I’m all about Middle Grade Adventure trilogies. Some of my favouite kid-lit of recent years falls under that heading: from Thirteen Treasures to The Dreamsnatcher, to The Last Wild and now The Huntress. I’m always open for another MG adventure trilogy, and look forward to reading.
The City of Secret Rivers by Jacob Sager Weinstein
Walker Books UK
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