The highly anticipated new novel from Natalie Lloyd, the critically acclaimed, bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic!Twelve-year-old Mallie knows better than to dream. In Coal Top, you live the story you're given: boys toil in the mines and girls work as servants. Mallie can't bear the idea of that kind of life, but her family is counting on her wages to survive.It wasn't always this way. Before the Dust came, the people of Coal Top could weave starlight into cloth. They'd wear these dreaming clothes to sleep and wake up with the courage to seek adventure . . . or the peace to heal a broken heart. But now nothing can penetrate Coal Top's blanket of sorrow.So when Mallie is chosen for a dangerous competition in which daring (and ideally, orphaned) children train flying horses, she jumps at the chance. Maybe she'll change her story. Maybe she'll even find the magic she needs to dream again.But the situation proves even more dangerous when Mallie uncovers a sinister mystery at the heart of Coal Top's struggles -- a mystery some powerful people will do anything to protect.
A 12-year-old struggles as her family's sole breadwinner until a dangerous opportunity offers financial freedom. Mallie Ramble manages her work as a maid in the valley just fine, though her employer condescends to her about her artificial arm, an orange "Popsnap" in "a universal color that fits everybody." Above the valley, Mallie's dust-covered home on Coal Top is ruled by malevolent authorities who threaten to force Mallie's beloved seven-year-old brother into the mines. When a flyer calls for "fellers" ("orphans preferred") "unafraid to ride and race and fly in the fear of certain death," Mallie bravely volunteers to fly Starbirds airborne horses and collect gold dust from distant mountaintops. The bond between Mallie and her Starbird, Leo, proves strong as an evil plot comes to light, as does her chemistry with her best friend Adam and the horse trainer Iggy. Though characterization can feel flimsy, Lloyd (The Key to Extraordinary) deftly sketches oppressive social and economic circumstances and firmly establishes Mallie's bravery. Ages 8 12.