This is a stunning story set in a world where science is all important, but there are memories of the past, where dragons ruled together with humans. Paisley Fitzwilliam is the heroine of this story, but it looks as if it will be for a short time as the stars on her wrist (which tell her destiny) says she will die by her 14th birthday and she is already 13 years old. When her mother seems to have been killed in a scientific accident, Paisley has to take care of her younger brother Dax, who appears to be ‘crippled’ but is in fact dragon touched (with his leg covered in dragon like scales). When Corbett, her mother’s assistant, brings Paisley her mother’s watch, he explains that she must be alive, because the watch is made of Nightsilver and would not be warm if her mother was dead. This sets the young people on a mission to find her mother and to protect her brother from the mysterious ‘Dark Dragon’ and her underlings; and the fate of her world might also depend on thwarting the evil mastermind.
The author has created a world that is magical in many respects and yet is ruled by the ways of science. There is the fascinating and almost Victorian feeling ‘lower London’, where people fear the existence of dragons and those that are ‘Dragon touched’ face execution if found out. Then we have the ‘Floating Boroughs’, which literally float in the sky above the city and where dragon touched are found and not persecuted. There is a feel of Steampunk about the place and for those who love works by Philip Reeve and Peter Bunzl this will be a very welcome addition to their reading lists. This is very much about how we should accept difference and even celebrate it; we also learn about friendship, loyalty, self-belief and the determination to do the right thing. The story is full of action and we have a very satisfying cast of heroes and villains; not all of whom are obvious at the beginning, as we are lead through a range of dangerous situations that gradually bring the evildoers to light and give us some unexpected twists and turns. I totally loved this book and will be waiting avidly for the next chapter in the lives of Paisley, Corbett and Dax.