Marisee Blackwell’s grandmother is keeper of the London Wells. When she mysteriously disappears one day, leaving only a cryptic note behind her, Marisee decides to investigate. She finds herself with a companion in her mission when she meets Robert Strong, young slave to rich Lady Hibbert. He is desperately concerned about the fate of his friend Lizzie who has fallen prey to a sleeping sickness, a strange and pervasive condition sweeping London. Together they decide to investigate.
There follows a fast-paced quest story taking our two detectives and the reader across a fantastical version of eighteenth-century London in search of Marisee’s grandmother and the elusive freedom of the city.
A complex world has been created, in which human inhabitants are referred to as ‘solids’, and there are also ‘elementals’, personified spirits, representing air, water, earth and fire. We meet a complex villain ‘The Shepherdess’ imposing harsh justice on the world in her desire to remake London, a monster in the Serpentine, gruesome ghosts in Hyde Park and some really quite scary scenes (this is not a book for the faint hearted!) The two detectives are complex too – Marisee struggles with who to trust and Robert with conflicting commitments.
This is an exciting fantasy adventure with a fully imagined and complex world, an alternative historical London. It may inspire young readers to find out more about subterranean rivers, foundlings, or Robert’s back story as a slave transported to England from a plantation in Barbados. The importance of memory in remembering those we have lost and the distinction between dream and reality is also explored.
The two detectives are successful in their quest and the story comes to a satisfying end, but the Freedom of the City remains an enigma. However, Robert makes steps to achieve his own freedom leaving the way clear for the quest to continue and more adventures for the Elemental Detectives to follow.