A city has many lives and layers. London has more than most. Not all the layers are underground, and not all the lives belong to the living.
Twelve-year-old George Chapman is about to find this out the hard way. When, in a tiny act of rebellion, George breaks the head from a stone dragon outside the Natural History Museum, he awakes an ancient power. This power has been dormant for centuries but the results are instant and terrifying: A stone Pterodactyl unpeels from the wall and starts chasing George. He runs for his life but it seems that no one can see what he's running from. No one, except Edie, who is also trapped in this strange world.
And this is just the beginning as the statues of London awake
This is a story of statues coming to life; of a struggle between those with souls and those without; of how one boy who has been emotionally abandoned manages to find hope.
Fletcher has an intriguing premise at the heart of his YA debut, the first in a planned trilogy, but the execution is flat. Twelve-year-old George Chapman is living a life that feels "pale and gray and washed out," missing his father and struggling to fit in. On a class outing to a museum, he is blamed for something he didn't do; in anger, he breaks a carved dragon's head protruding from a wall. Moments later, a stone pterodactyl on another wall comes alive and chases George through the streets of London. A man named Gunner comes to his rescue; he turns out to be a "spit," a statue made in the image of a living person and brought to life imbued with a bit of that person's spirit. Taints, conversely like the gargoyles and dragons that suddenly pose such a threat to George are dangerous precisely because they have nothing human in them. Stone carvings spring to life everywhere, furious with George for his act of destruction; a riddle contest with a nasty Sphinx reveals that George needs to find something called the Stone Heart to save his life and repair what he has broken. His quest takes him to an alternate, unseen London (one of many "un-Londons"), and eventually to a Minotaur's maze in the heart of the city. There is an ironic lifelessness to Fletcher's tale, particularly his protagonist who doesn't ring true; George is a bit more likeable at the finale, as he prepares to fight the murderous Walker in the sequel, but it may be too late for readers. Ages 10-up.