A copy of Arthur Slade’s The Hunchback Assignments (it’s labeled as a YA steampunk, but it felt more MG to me) reached my fingertips after lots of great comments hit my ears. Well, I loved it too, so I shall very soon be moving on to book 2, The Dark Deeps.
Ugly Modo is a hunchback with a special skill: he can transform his features (temporarily) into whatever he needs them to be. Mr. Socrates, a member of secret spy agency in 19th century England, is Modo’s employer and the closest thing to a father Modo has ever known–of course, not too many fathers raise their sons in total isolation on diets of fighting, acting, and history.
When children start vanishing throughout London, only to reappear as automatons, Mr. Socrates wants Modo to find the sinister source. With the help of kick-butt Octavia Milkweed—a beautiful orphan-turned-spy who also works for Mr. Socrates—Modo learns of a secret society bent on destroying the British Government. And the more horrors Modo and Octavia uncover, the more unlikely it seems that two teenage spies will be able to stop the society before it’s too late.
What I loved most about this novel was, without a doubt, Modo. He’s just so endearing! I definitely have a soft spot for the underdog, and the fact that Modo is hideous and constantly worried about people seeing his true face…well…I think it’s something we can all identify with (especially our teenage selves!). Plus, he’s new to the real world since Mr. Socrates kept him locked away his whole life.
Octavia is a great foil to Modo, and I love her character too. She’s pretty, confident, street-smart, and tough. I love a gal who can fight hard while wearing a corset.
Oh, and did I mention how AWESOME Slade’s vision of a steampunk London is? Well, he pulled me right into the sleazy underbelly of 19th century London—I could vividly imagine the alleys and sewers and smoky rooftops.
If you’re looking for a great MG/YA steampunk, then I definitely suggest you check out The Hunchback Assignments.
You tell me: Have you read this or any of the others in the series? What did you think? Or do you have any other steampunk books to recommend?