Guest character post – 10/23
My name is Miriam Pearson, and I’m the luckiest person in the world. Not because my father was very wealthy, which he was, or because I live in a huge, luxurious house, which I do.
I’m lucky because someone saved my life.
It didn’t happen in an instant, or even overnight. It took a long time to save me. I was lost, you see – lost in my own anger.
I am an orphan, and I suppose that is what made me so furious. How dare my father die? And, worse, how dare he die before I really got to know him? Why, for example, did I never meet my mother at all? There was never any mention of her, or pictures to look at. In large homes like this, most families have portraits that line the walls. Not here – not a single one. There isn’t even a portrait of my mother in my father’s old room. I should know; I stole in and looked.
Some months after my father died, the Marchpanes arrived and announced that they would be looking after me from that time forward with their beastly son, Simon. That was when I really lost hold of reality. I locked myself into my room and stopped bathing. Really, I was little more than an animal.
And then she arrived – my governess. Mana. She changed everything, and she saved my life.
For one thing, she herself was incredibly neat and clean. Her clothes are spotless, and her hair is braided on top of her head. The white of her shirt is really pretty against her dark brown skin. She is the loveliest person I’ve ever met.
Not only that, but she taught me to keep my temper. I stopped throwing things at Uncle Virgil (Mr. Marchpane) and calling Aunt Theodosia names, even if she does resemble a stickleback.
And as for Simon… well, that’s a bit more complicated. I suppose he really isn’t that beastly, after all. Mana had something to do with it – she explained that he is a good person. And, once I got to know him, I found that I quite liked him, after all.
His parents are scheming to have us get married. Of course, that is ridiculous. For one thing, I’ll probably never marry, and if I did it wouldn’t be to Simon.
I do wish that the woman who just arrived, Barbara Cantwell, didn’t dazzle him quite so much. I’ll admit that she is beautiful, but must he follow her around everywhere? And with such a moony expression?
I have the feeling that things are about to happen, now that Barbara has arrived. I can see that she and her brother are also scheming. I think they are after my father’s business, and now it looks as though Barbara wants Simon along with it.
What happens next should be very interesting.
CLICK ON THE BOOK COVERS FOR THE BUY LINKS
Book One – The Night Watchman Express
Miriam Pearson’s father has died. Her guardians, The Marchpanes, take over her house and her father’s company. The strong-willed girl instantly clashes with their son, Simon. The Marchpanes hire a governess, Mana, to take care of her. Mana is black, and has magic powers. She and Miriam eventually become friends. With Simon and Neil, his friend, they uncover a plot by the sinister Barbara Cantwell to use Miriam’s father’s company for evil means. Barbara is very beautiful, and at first, Simon is very attracted to her.
Once Barbara realizes that Miriam and Mana are on to her scheme, she forces the guardians to fire the governess. Mana is hustled out of the house by the Marchpanes, but Miriam, Neil and Simon follow her to the Night Watchman Express. However, Miriam and Simon are captured and put on the Night Watchman, bound for a sinister destination. Mana is loaded onto a boat headed to Big Star Island.
Neil manages to steal a boat and follow Mana’s captors to the island. A native girl, Riki, rescues him and brings him to her house. She is spoiled and her mother has no control over her, but Neil manages to become her friend. Her father forces him to stay with the family so Neil can be Riki’s companion and manage her wild behavior.
Neil learns about Atol, the king of the island, who seized power after the last monarch was killed. Atol is plotting with Barbara Cantwell to force the islands to produce drugs instead of bolemor wood, and he is also shipping his people out for use in human experiments. Neil discovers that Mana is the rightful queen of the island, and is being held by Atol. Neil and Riki manage to rescue Mana, and they head back to the mainland to look for Simon and Miriam.
Book Two – Devil’s Kitchen
Miriam and Simon are imprisoned on the Night Watchman Express, heading for the Devil’s Kitchen. It is a huge, dirty factory where the prisoners process the drug imported from the island. Simon tries to fight the guards and is hauled away to a huge, strange house belonging to Barbara Cantwell.
Miriam is forced to live in a cell and work underground under the fearsome Headmistress and Headmaster, who run the factory. Meanwhile, Mana and Neil arrive and start searching for their friends.
Simon wakes up in Barbara’s house and undergoes torture. He manages to gain her trust by pretending to be on her side. Eventually he is rescued by Mana. Miriam is about to be punished by the Headmistress and Headmaster when Mana and Simon arrive and rescues her. Barbara tries to kill Mana but is foiled by Simon.
Mana regains her kindgdom, and Miriam regains her home and future control of her father’s business.
Book Three – The Lamplighter’s Special
Miriam, Simon, Neil, and Riki reunite on Lampala for the summer holiday. They are happy to be together but wonder what has happened to Neil’s family.
Neil’s sisters, short-sighted Lizzie and beautiful Ninna, are forced to work in the Manor House to help take care of new guests.
The guest arrives, a lovely lady called Miss Wilkinsl. She and her brother have a mysterious obsession with the Crown Phoenix.
Lizzie meets Toby, the oldest son who cannot leave the attic. They become friends. Lizzie is also forced to work in Miss Cantwell’s rooms, where the dresser, Siddons, tortures her with violence and overwork. Siddons locks Lizzie in a room, and Toby finally emerges from his attic to rescue Lizzie.
Toby fixes The Crown Phoenix.They all board a ship called The Lamplighter’s Special and sail to the island. On the way, the typewriter works some strange magic and they arrive in a matter of hours instead of weeks.
Lizzie, Ninna, Toby and Priam discover there is a person hidden below deck in the boat.
Miss Cantwell takes the four children to the island and strands them there. They are rescued by Miriam, Neil, and Mana.
Miss Cantwell threatens to blow up the islands with the Crown Phoenix. She is captured. The rest return to the boat and head back to England, but Toby’s agoraphobia returns.
REVIEW BLURBS -
“I really loved this book. It reminded me strongly of Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. (The Golden Compass etc.) The three main characters are likeable and believable as they struggle to understand the hidden perfidy of the adults in control of their lives. It's a great coming of age novel too. I'd recommend it to anyone who liked THE GOLDEN COMPASS and it's sequels, or Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle books. It has the same sense of magic, mystery and intrigue. Although there are occasional typos throughout, the story is so strong they are easy to get past. I devoured it in two long sittings..”
“It's very intriguing! I want to know more about Neil and why he's with these people. And who or what are the Marchpanes? Good set up and hook.”
“Alison DeLuca is a master storyteller who deserves much more recognition than she gets. I would not hesitate to recommend not only this book, but the entire series. This is Steampunk adventure at its best!”
“The story is told almost as if it were a fairy tale, but it has a gritty steampunk quality that makes it a perfect rainy weekend read. There is danger, there is darkness, and suspense; there is a serious good vs. evil plot. I found that I was thinking about the characters at the end, and wondering what was going to happen next. This story captured my interest from page one, and kept me reading all the way through it to the end. I enjoyed it immensely, and I am looking forward to reading more of DeLuca's work.”
- Amazon Reviews
…this is the type of story that will appeal to readers who enjoy immersing themselves in a fictional world. The pacing is slow, but the characters are bold. They almost seem to jump off the page and grasp you by the wrist so that you may live their lives alongside them….
“DeLuca writes in an enjoyable faux-Victorian voice, capturing the ‘prim and proper’ spirit of the times while simultaneously subtly critiquing conventions (for example, the Marchpane’s treatment of Mana, a black governess). Mostly, the style gives the novel both a lightness of touch and, when the voice is at its strongest, an authenticity.” From Doctor Fantastique’s Show of Wonders, Volume One, July 2011. Review by Sophie Playle
Alison DeLuca grew up on an organic farm in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Her parents were British, so in the summers she went to stay with her grandparents near Dublin.
There was no stereo or TV there, so Alison, her sister, and her cousins spent the summer inventing stories and plays for each other. “This gave me the ability to entertain myself with my own imagination in any situation,” she says. “We used to be taken to tea with great-aunts, and we were expected to sit on an uncomfortable couch and not move or say a word. It was possible to endure it because I was watching my own little stories play out in my mind.”
After graduating from West Chester University, Alison became a teacher of English and Spanish, teaching students from kindergarten up to college level. She loved teaching, and it was with reluctance that she left the classroom to be a fulltime mom when her daughter was born.
While she was teaching and raising her daughter, Alison took every free minute she had to write. The Night Watchman Express and The Crown Phoenix Series were the result.
She is currently working on the final book in the series, as well as several other projects.
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