Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he’s a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.
Oh my WOW! I loved this. I loved every line of it. I loved Jonathan’s voice and the silly footnotes and humor and wit and imagination and scientific equations that went directly over my head and people talking in haughty British-English and did I mention the humor? I so seriously loved this. So hard. Allow me to stop rambling and give you a proper review:
First of all, the writing was impeccable. I was never pulled from the story for any reason, the voice was consistent and perfect and punctuation was utilized so perfectly that I’ll bet an actor could cold-read this and get exactly the inflection Dixon was imagining when she wrote it.
And speaking of imagination, this book has it in spades. Everything from the world to the scientific explanations to the effects of the weird drugs was so new and different from anything I’ve ever read. It was so interesting! And the way the story evolved and things were revealed was so perfectly paced and perfectly handled. I could read Heather Dixon for the rest of my life and never get tired of her. This book was the fun of steampunk, the intelligence of Sherlock Holmes and the science fiction of I-don’t-even-know-what. But it was good. The science portions were well-thought-out and made perfect fictional sense. Just so wonderfully woven together. Seriously. So good.
And the characters! Such lovely, well-rounded characters. I totally would have befriended Jonathan and the one-eyed-guard and Hannah and Anna and I just loved them all. So much. Even the bad guys had back-stories and moments where I understood them and wanted to reach in and give them a hug. Depth. They all had it.
And, the clincher (for me): It was clean! I mean, these kids are just kids, right? So they think about boys and girls and whatever but there is so much going on that not a whole lot of romance happens. There is a tiny element of romance but no fiery all-consuming passionate affair. Whatever happens is just sweet and childlike. Because they’re children. And I love Heather Dixon a little bit for treating a teenage romance the way a teenager most likely would. Not the way adults imagine they would have liked to behave in those situations. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.
You know what, just go read it already. It’s so good. If you like clean, sci-fi, steampunk books set in 19th century England, you’ll love this. Promise.
Sexual Content: Mild
Language: Mild (if any)
Drugs/Alcohol: Heavy (the entire plot hinges on a hallucinogenic drug…)