It's 1872. Sally Lockhart is 16 years old and all alone in the world following the recent death of her father. In London she receives a letter which she takes to her father's partner in the shipping company he used to run. That letter and a mere question from Sally about, “the Seven Blessings”, cause a man to drop down dead on the spot. This is the start of an adventure that brings Sally into contact with Chinese triads, a deadly drug, a precious jewel and new friends. She doesn't realise it but Sally is about to find herself at the centre of a fight in which the stakes are high enough to kill.
This is a fast-paced, enjoyable adventure story. Philip Pullman is a big fan of Victorian London and his knowledge of and love for the period come through in his description and in his characters. All of our heroes have flaws and they're all the more believable for it. Along the way we examine such themes as loyalty, the importance of family and friends (who are not always who we think they are) and the joy of discovering hidden talents.
Looking at this book, as I am, from an educational point of view there is enormous scope in this book for historical study. The Opium Wars, attitudes towards woman at the time, the plight of homeless children in Victorian London and the history of photography all feature in this book to one degree or another. In the edition I read there are “Certain items of historical interest” pertaining to the year in question and, “Extracts from Dickens's Dictionary of London”. These extras complement the story perfectly, giving more information about the era and providing a wealth of people, places and events to research.
This book is suitable to be read by Year 6 children and could be enjoyed by Year 5 children hearing it read aloud.
- Reading Age: 5-7
- Reading Aloud Age: 5-7
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