COGHEART by Peter Bunzl is a thrilling adventure that blends a historical setting with futuristic elements. The author hints his characters are in Victorian England towards the end of the nineteenth century, but never gives a specific year. Lily, the protagonist, is the daughter of John Hartman, a master inventor known for his innovative mechanicals and mechanimals. His creations, unlike his cohorts, are developed with emotional capability, and as a result, his mechanicals have become like family to him and Lily. However, John gets too good at his job and is kidnapped for an item Lily never knew existed. Now, it’s up to her to undercover the details of her father’s disappearance before it is too late.
This book is a true lesson in voice. Each character has such a specific way of expressing himself or herself. My favorite is Mrs. Rust who always begins her sentences with a fun exclamation, like “Click-wheels and coat hangers!” or “Punchcards and pistons!” This seemingly small quirk helps make Mrs. Rust stand out, and she’s not the only one. Every single character has their own unique motivations and strengths and I care about them all.
I also love how seamlessly Bunzl is able to blend the historical and sci-fi elements. It’s such an unexpected and refreshing mashup. In the story and true to the time, people are flying only by zeppelins, an airship comparable to a blimp with metal framework. It’s so interesting to learn about this old transport, while at the same time, imagine John’s mechanicals in our future as artificial intelligence continues to expand.
The plot, overall, is fairly predictable and there are a number of moments that are more convenient than believable, particularly with Robert’s Da. With that being said, COGHEART is an engaging and fun ride, and I can’t wait to see Lily and Robert team up again.
This book will appeal to readers right on the cusp of Upper Middle Grade and older.