The Boy Who Flew by Fleur Hitchcock

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The Boy Who Flew by Fleur Hitchcock

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Fabulous period fantasy adventure with the most wonderful array of unforgettable characters. Engaging, fast-paced narrative and writing full of flair. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: March 2019
Publisher: Nosy Crow
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1788004381

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Athan Wilde earns some money to supplement his family's meagre income by working for Mr Chen who is both mentor and friend. Mr Chen's wonderful imagination and sense of the future has led him to create some fantastic inventions for making life easier and work less back breaking. His latest endeavour is something on an entirely different level, however - it's a.... flying machine! Imagine that!

Athan loves working with Mr Chen and is distraught when he is brutally murdered. It's clear to Athan that the motive for the murder was to get the plans for the flying machine. And Athan isn't having that. He resolves to find the murderers, complete the invention himself and so lift his family and friends out of poverty. But the opposition smells military potential in Mr Chen's flying machine and is ruthless. Athan's quest for justice will put everyone in danger. He's running risks for everyone, not just himself...

This fabulous middle grade adventure story is loosely set during the agrarian revolution and at the dawn of the industrial revolution. It takes place across the rooftops of a city below the stars and goes down and dirty into the streets of the poor. It's wonderfully evocative and rattles along at a pace that will hold the interest of every reader. The world building is subtle and clever and there's no exposition: it simply rises from the pages fully-formed and so vivid that you can almost smell it.

There's a host of characters to love. The evil Colonel Blade is ruthless in a grimly Dickensian way. Athan's disabled sister Beatty has the most wonderful generosity of spirit despite the trials she faces. And the same with Tod, Athan's good friend, who has an abusive father. I loved Ma, who's not above brandishing a poker to defend her young. But the central character Athan rises above them all: he's courageous, inventive, thoughtful, and he has to wrestle with the consequences of his decisions without ever losing sight of the justice he pursues.

Written with great gusto but also much subtlety, The Boy Who Flew is a thunderingly good period adventure. And it has a lot to say about the virtues of friendship, family, and courage.


If The Boy Who Flew appeals, you might also enjoy Mothstorm by Philip Reeve and David Wyatt. And if you haven't yet read Hitchcock's Murder in Midwinter, you really should!

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