CHILDREN OF THE FLYING CITY, by Jason Sheehan, Dutton Books for Young Readers, March 15, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 10 and up)
A street urchin finds himself the target of multiple nefarious characters in Children of the Flying City, by Jason Sheehan.
Brought to the flying city of Highgate when he was only 5 years old, orphan Milo Quick has never known another home. Now almost thirteen, Milo survives one daredevil grift at a time, relying only on his wit, speed, and best friends Jules and Dagda.
A massive armada has surrounded Highgate’s crumbling armaments. Because behind locked doors — in opulent parlors and pneumatic forests and a master toymaker’s workshop — the once-great flying city protects a powerful secret, hidden away for centuries. A secret that’s about to ignite a war.
One small airship, the Halcyon, has slipped through the ominous blockade on a mission to collect Milo — and the rich bounty on his head — before the fighting begins. But the members of the Halcyon’s misfit crew aren’t the only ones chasing Milo Quick. —Synopsis provided by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Children of the Flying City has the makings of a promising new series, but it’s not without flaws.
First and foremost is Jason Sheehan’s prose, which takes some getting used to. The book is told by a narrator of sorts, who tends to ramble on in places and continually shifts points of view. Honestly, the points of view are easier to grasp than the rambling sort of way the story plays out. It appears the omniscient narration is supposed to lighten the story with some tongue-in-cheek commentary, but it often gets in the way.
Speaking of lightening the story, press materials call the novel “a richly imagined tale that is dangerous and surprising, wondrous and joyful.” Wondrous and joyful are not the words I would use to describe it. Children of the Flying City is dark, gritty and intense. There are moments of awe and delight, but they are few and far between.
A book doesn’t have to be all unicorns and puppies to be good, though. And those moments of brightness stand out more against the stark backdrop. The world that Sheehan has created has a dystopian/sci-fi/almost-steampunk feel to it. And while I did struggle to gain a full sense of that world, I did find the characters engaging and well-developed with room for growth.
Children of the Flying City is the first book in a planned series, and as you finish it, you get a real sense that Sheehan has left out a lot of information on purpose. It remains to be seen if he fills in those holes in later books. I hope he does, because there’s potential for so much more.
In the end, the mark of a good book is wanting to read more, and I left Children of the Flying City wanting to read its sequel. The publisher’s suggested age range is 10 and up, but because of the violence, I’d put it at a mature 11 and older.
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