*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of The Eye of the North by Sinéad O’Hart


I wanted to read and review more YA and children’s books this year, so when this one caught my eye due to the interesting premise, I requested it and couldn’t be more pleased. It’s a delight…

When Emmeline’s scientist parents mysteriously disappear, she finds herself heading for a safe house, where allies have pledged to protect her. But along the way, things don’t go as planned…

This steampunk adventure is huge fun that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up until the end. Emmeline is brought up a solitary child in a creepy house infested with all sorts of dangerous creatures and is more or less left to get on with it as her scientist parents have to do a lot of travelling. Until a fateful day when everything goes wrong… Do try to avoid reading the blurb which is far too chatty and gives away more of the plot than is necessary. That said, there is plenty of plot in this action-packed story brimful of interesting, likeable characters. Generally I am not a huge fan of stories where yet another set of new characters pop up in each scene, but somehow O’Hart manages to pull it off. Other than Emmeline, whose gritty self-assurance gets her through all sorts of tight spots, my favourite character has to be Thing, the vagabond boy she encounters on the liner. But there are plenty of other enjoyable, strong-minded characters to choose from as steampunk tends to roll along with lots of action and relatively little angst. It was when Thing had a wobble about his grim childhood that I bonded with him and felt that vulnerability gave him more reader-appeal.

There is also a pleasing number of unpleasant villains ranged against Emmeline and the people trying to prevent the impending apocalypse – my favourite is Doctor Siegfried Bauer as he is so magnificently horrible, especially to poor Emmeline. But the North Witch is also a thoroughly nasty character who poses all sorts of problems. Once the action really takes off, we have the two main protagonists, Emmeline and Thing alternating in telling the story, occasionally interspersed by other members of the supporting cast. O’Hart’s strong writing and deft handling of the rising tension makes this a really gripping read that didn’t want to let me go when I should have been up and about instead of finishing the book.

The denouement has to deliver after so much energy and tension has been expended during the rising action and in this case, it does, while all the dangling plotpoints are satisfactorily tidied up. I’m very much hoping that this book does well, because although I cannot see any sign of this being the first in a series, I’d love to read more about Emmeline and her family in another madcap adventure. Recommended for precocious readers from 10/11 years old onwards.

18 responses »

  1. This sounds like fun, although I don’t read much Middle Grade, I’m glad to see there are plenty of great options out there for young readers. Thanks for reviewing, Sarah😊

  2. You know, I haven’t read any Middle Grade Fiction since I was in that age bracket. (Well, except for the Harry Potter series, which started out as Middle Grade, went on to become YA, and then morphed into pretty much an adult series in the last two books.) Those were WONDERFUL years, too! Well, it looks like I will definitely be looking to read more books in this genre! This one sure sounds like the sort of thing that not only would have appealed to my 10-year-old self, but to my adult self, as well!

    I really enjoyed reading your review, too! You’ve really whetted my appetite! The characters are AMAZING, and I love that you didn’t give out too many spoilers in your analysis of the book! Cool, cool, cool!! Thanks for your insightful thoughts!! ❤ ❤ ❤ 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • You are very welcome, Maria. I was a primary school teacher so developed the habit for reading children’s fiction then – and then have continued to do so, because some of it is simply too good to just leave to the children… Thank you for your kind comments about the review – I appreciate them:).

  3. Oooo, this sounds like a delight! I wonder if Blondie would be into this. She’s currently reading the sequel to Marie Rutkoski’s Cabinet of Wonders, a surprise turn towards fantasy (let alone steampunk!) for my little scientist.

  4. Whenever I read a review like that, I regret I’m not the target of such books. But I did enjoy your review, and the part “pleasing number of unpleasant villains” made me chuckle! 🙂

    • This book is such a rollicking, enjoyable read! Even now, recalling the story makes me grin… and a book is definitely ticking the boxes when that happens, isn’t it?

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