- City of Secrets by Victoria Ying
Ying, Victoria City of Secrets; written and illus. by Victoria Ying. Viking, 2020 [256p] Trade ed. ISBN 9780593114483 $22.99 Paper ed. ISBN 9780593114490 $14.99 E-book ed. ISBN 9780593205877 $9.99 Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 3-6
While visiting the elaborately constructed Switchboard building at the heart of the city, Hannah catches a glimpse of twelve-year-old orphan Ever, who has lived there in hiding all his life and guards its many secrets. Longing to learn more about the building's vast network of cranks and levers, which shift staircases, rotate floors, and spring traps, Hannah seeks out friendship with the isolated Ever. Harmless fun turns to risky adventure, though, as the pair gets caught up in a battle between a shadowy gang of assassins out to destroy what Ever is guarding and a secret society tasked with protecting the building and the city. Now, with killers on their trail and a neighboring city threatening invasion, Hannah and Ever must unlock the building's final secret before it's too late. With its gears, gas lanterns, and turn-of-the-century costuming, this graphic novel offers high-flying adventure in a thoroughly enchanting steampunk world. The soft palette of creams and grays, with most characters shaded in dark colors, allows Hannah to pop in her bright dresses. As a character, she is solidly brave and likable, and she's perfectly paired with the wary but stalwart Ever. The plot packs a lot of action, multiple narrative threads, and backstory into one brief, fast-paced novel. While much of what unfolds is a predictable mash-up of well-worn tropes, the story still offers plenty of tension-building, heart-pounding excitement. A final thrilling reveal (involving a giant robot!) provides both a happy ending and potential for likely sequels.