A very singular guild by Catherine Jinks
City of orphans, bk 3. Allen and Unwin, 2014. ISBN
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Ned Roach is now Alfred's chief apprentice, luring out child eating bogles with his use of verse, so that Alfred can kill them. Before working with Alfred he was a mudlark, scavenging for a living in the mud along the Thames. Now he is employed alongside of Alfred who has been paid by the London Sewers Office to rid London of an infestation of bogles. As well as facing the evil bogles, Ned and his friends, Jem and Birdie, face deadly danger from an enemy from their past.
In this the final story in the City of Orphans trilogy, following A very unusual pursuit and A very peculiar plague, Jinks relates the tale of Ned, who is a very likeable hero. He is intensely interested in machines and is fascinated by the steam engines and new machinery that he encounters in his travels with the employees of the London Sewers Offices and would love to work with them. However, he is very loyal to Alfred who has taken him away from the insecurity of scrabbling for a living in the mudflats, and believes that he must help him to entice the bogles out even though he is really afraid of them. His loyalty and steadfastness even when terrified as well as his powerful curiosity about machines make the story very enjoyable.
The setting of Dickens' London and the beginning of the machine age are all cleverly mixed with the superstitions of a people who believe in strange creatures who capture children. Jinks subtly draws the reader into the life of poor orphans in the 19th century and will leave them empathizing with the drawbacks of not being able to read and having to earn a living at a very early age. The descriptions of London's underground tunnels and sewer systems, the wickedness of some of the slum dwellers, the contrast with the wealthy and the frivolity of the actors in the theatres of Drury Lane bring a wonderful feel to the story.
Beautifully written, Jinks manages to tie up the fates of her characters in a very satisfying and atmospheric conclusion to an outstanding series which should grace every library shelf and would be a great read aloud in the classroom as well.