A riveting, magical escapade about finding friendship and the courage to set yourself free against all odds.
Kidnapped and forced to shovel coal underground, in a half-bombed power station, 12-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma keeps his head down and hopes he can earn his freedom from the evil Tabitha Margate. Then one day he discovers he can see things that others can’t. Ghostly things. A ghostly girl named Alma, who can bend the shape of clouds to her will and rides them through the night sky.
With Alma’s help, Luke discovers his own innate powers and uncovers the terrible truth of why Tabatha is kidnapping children and forcing them to shovel coal. Desperate to escape, Luke teams up with Alma, his best friend Ravi, and new girl Jess. Can Luke and his friends get away before they each become victims to a cruel and sinister scheme?
Debut author Michael Mann delivers a wildly imaginative middle grade fantasy set in a smoke-stained world that’s sure to entertain readers who are eager for an adventure with paranormal superpowers.
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
Scores of kidnapped children shovel coal into Battersea Power Station's underground furnaces, powering all of smog-ridden London, in debut author Mann's splendid escapist adventure. Two years after 12-year-old Luke Smith-Sharma, who's of Indian descent, arrives at the station, he tries to keep new girl Jess from slowing the shoveling line and jeopardizing his chance at a freedom-granting amber ticket. But an ensuing incident results in foul punishment for both: cleaning the sewers. It's during this task that Luke rescues a ghostcloud, or water-bonded spirit, called Alma, who recognizes Luke for the half-ghost he is, and reveals his ability to both perceive the uncanny and fly over an alternate London, which is overseen by evil magnate Tabatha Margate. This taste of the outside world sets aspiring detective Luke on the road to escape, accompanied by Alma, plumber hopeful Jess, and goods and information trader Ravi, who prove fully realized characters and co-conspirators. Smartly wrought worldbuilding aptly engages with themes of identity and equity while conjuring an atmospherically gritty London that's at once singularly inventive and reminiscent of works by Joan Aiken, Charles Dickens, and Philip Pullman. It's a thoughtful and well-built fantasy that's also rollicking good fun. Ages 8–12.)