Fun fact/humble brag: I got this book signed by the author back at a Teen Author Boot Camp. Although I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t finished reading it until now.
Kids books have a charming simplicity to them. Simple themes, equally simple characters, just… simplicity. Not to mention short. A simple, charming, relaxing read.
Fires of Invention, the first book in the Mysteries of Cove series, is one such book. The themes are brain-dead simple: creativity = good, people who try to get you not to be creative = bad. It’s not meant to be deep or thought provoking. Just to inspire kids and take them on a fun little adventure. So, does it succeed?
Yeah. Very much so.
Trenton, our young protagonist, has a mind for machines unlike any other. Problem is, that mind keeps getting him into trouble, as he keeps building new machines that aren’t legal in the city of Cove. One day, while climbing up a mine chute to make up for a power outage totally not caused by his custom-made swing, he finds a small, oddly shaped metal tube. Turns out, that was left behind by the infamous inventor Leo Babbage, meant for his daughter Kallista. When his dreams of being a mechanic are dashed, he and Kallista work together to solve the mystery left behind by her father and complete his greatest invention yet.
It’s not a hard story to follow. Nor is it a hard story to get into. The pacing is excellent, the setting interesting, and the characters, while lacking in depth, are decently compelling. A perfectly fine book to hand to your kids. Or to read yourself in an afternoon or two.
Cove itself is a fairly interesting setting. A good amount of time in the book is spent fleshing out the setting. We get a pretty good look at the hidden history, the technologies that are and are not allowed, what foods they can or cannot eat, so on and so forth. It’s a fairly well fleshed-out city. Although not one that you’d ever want to live in.
My main problem with it is that it feels kind of unpopulated. The characters often worry about being spotted, but by who? Aside from them, the streets are empty! The population only appears at the end when sudden peril arises!
Speaking of which: this book features a pretty amazing plot twist. You think it’s a steampunk dystopia the whole time. Then wham! It’s a fantasy book now! It’s such a jarring twist that I genuinely thought it was a joke! But when the shock wore off, the effectiveness of it truly started to sink in. Suddenly, all the future books in this series are headed towards a dramatically different direction!
Fires of Invention is a very fun book. Simple, easy to understand, and quick to read. If you’ve got kids or just need something quick to read, it’s a fine pick.
Also, robot dragons. Did I mention the robotic dragon? It’s as awesome as it sounds.