With a splendid cover and a good title, this is an old fashioned adventure story. It follows on from the author’s first book, The Elephant Thief, and features the majestic elephant Maharajah of that book, together with Danny who trains him. Danny has been taken in by the Jamesons who run the Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester in the 1900s, and his performance as Prince Dandip with Maharajah forms the centrepiece of an extravaganza complete with fireworks which Mr.Jameson hopes will bring in a great crowd of people and secure his zoo. But there are people who have other plans for the land and this is complicated by the local vicar who objects to the zoo being open on Sundays. For Danny life gets even worse when a man appears purporting to be his long lost father. This all sets the scene for false accusations, barrels of gunpowder, and an elephant losing half a tusk.
The reader feels for Danny having his emotions played with, whether he can he believe Mr. Larkin, and then finding it so difficult to talk to the Jamesons about it, not to mention trying to be friends with Hetty, the vet’s daughter, whose fierce aunt will not let him see her. Danny is a plucky hero, and the scenes in the story where he gets the elephant to roll the barrels of gunpowder down the slope into the lake and thus save thousands of lives are very excitingly told. There is plenty of local and historical atmosphere to make the story really credible and the plot moves along at a satisfying pace. The notes at the end fill in where some of the story has a basis of fact, and the whole is tied up neatly possibly leading to a third book. Boys and girls of 9+ will really enjoy this. It stands alone from the first story, which this reader will certainly go back to in order to find out where Danny and Maharajah’s story begins.K