It is the mid-nineteenth century, Queen Victoria is on the throne, and the British Empire stretches into the stars. With their absent-minded father for their only human company, Arthur and Myrtle live in a ramshackle house named Larklight floating in deep space. But then giant spiders invade Larklight and kidnap their father, and Art and Myrtle barely escape. They join up with a pirate crew led by the notorious Captain Jack Havock and have a number of thrilling adventures whilst evading the spiders.
I really, really wanted to like this book. The illustrations are charming, and the combination of steampunk and ya should make this book a slam-dunk. Reeve has created a universe filled with sentient storms on Saturn, a plague that turns people into trees, ships powered by alchemical weddings...It's imaginative, though a little heavy-handed. But it just didn't work for me.
The main problem I had was the characters. From the very start, Art continually jibes at his sister for being so prissy and priggish. Turns out, the author didn't like the sister much either. Myrtle is unbelievably awful, in this very specific way that only female characters are. She keeps asking Art what's going to happen next and demanding he reassure her--even though she's years older! They get rescued from certain death by pirates, and she complains that the pirate ship is dirty. She gets kidnapped by obvious villains and thinks that just because they have nice linen they must be good. Running from more certain death, she refuses to run across the villains' lawn because it has a "keep off the grass" sign. She whines constantly. She saves the day literally completely by accident. And then she and the Peter Pan-type character fall into each others' arms, for no reason I can discern.
If I hadn't been so annoyed with Myrtle, the plot would still have frustrated me. It's a series of set pieces, all culminating in a deus-ex-machina. I don't think I was worried for even a single paragraph. Disappointing!