Author: Patrick Samphire
Publication: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (January 12, 2016)
Description: Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.
Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster ... that is, until the villainous archaeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward's parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.
Edward and his sisters set out on a perilous pursuit across the Martian wilderness. Together they must evade Sir Titus's minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can't, they will never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward's family.
My Thoughts: Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of being a spy. He relies on Thrilling Martian Tales to give him ideas. But, at twelve-years-old, he finds himself busy taking care of his inventor father and society-obsessed mother and dealing with his two older and one younger sister as their self-appointed guardian. When Cousin Freddie turns up, things start to get exciting.
Mama is busy organizing a garden party to introduce the oldest daughter Jane to society and Papa is busy working on his latest invention - a water abacus - which can do many calculations much faster then doing them by hand. When an old suitor of Edward's Mama shows up it is to use the abacus to break the code that hides a dragon tomb filled with all sorts of treasures. He kidnaps Papa, Mama, and Jane because he needs them to break the code. This leaves Freddie, Edward, Edward's younger sister Putty and older sister Olivia to rescue them.
The four have all sorts of adventures from airship crashes to desert treks to animal attacks and attacks by mechanicals as they try to get to Papa, Mama and Jane before the old suitor disposes of them. This book would make a great read-aloud because each chapter ends at a point that makes you really want to keep reading.
The characters were interesting people with Freddie filling the role of the silly spy, pretending to be someone so clueless that he couldn't possibly be dangerous. Edward is a typical 12-year-old who is in love with the glamour or being a spy but who doesn't yet have the knowledge. His younger sister Putty is an eccentric who has all the knowledge and bravery that Edward lacks along with a distressing lack of self-preservation.
The setting is Mars in 1816. The native Martians no longer have emperors and a great civilization but the dragon tombs contain great treasures from their past. Many adventurers are eager to uncover the next great dragon tomb filled with treasure. Some of the adventurers are eager to funnel the inventions to Napoleon who is rampaging through Europe back on Earth and who might be turning his eye on Mars after he finishes conquering England.
This was a fun story that I will be eager to share with my middle grade students.
"Didn't want to miss breakfast, and you do all have it so unfashionably early on Mars. A man who starts the day without a kipper is a man who will feel like a smoked fish until bedtime! So says Plato, or, er, someone. Anyway when I got down, it was dark, and the automatic servants were all busy cleaning—dashed funny time to be doing it, if you ask me..."I got this ARC from Macmillan. You can buy your copy here.