Reviews provided by Syndetics
Publishers Weekly Review
Mowll's intriguing debut novel introduces siblings Becca and Doug. An opening "note to the reader" adds an air of authenticity to the fiction by identifying the author as heir to his deceased great-aunt (Becca), who had requested that he finish putting her "archive into a publishable form." Set in 1920, the elaborately plotted saga opens in Shanghai, as Becca and Doug (whose parents disappeared a year ago during a mysterious expedition to western China) arrive at a research ship captained by their uncle, their newly appointed guardian. Also on board is a French scientist who had been kidnapped by a Chinese warlord and forced to create torpedoes using a powerful explosive. The teens explore the ship in hopes of discovering why their uncle is so secretive about his South China Sea mission, and discover messages outlining the man's assignment from the board of the "Honourable Guild of Specialists," an organization whose raison d'?tre readers learn only at tale's end. Inquisitive, impulsive Doug and cautious, thoughtful Becca play key roles in accomplishing the complex task, which entails a dramatic showdown with the warlord. Becca's diary entries and sidebars with background information supplement the narrative, along with drawings from Doug's sketchbook, cutaway views of the ship, maps and foldout pages marked "Confidential Material." As the energetically paced story winds down, Becca and Doug make a pact to search for their parents, setting the scene for book two of the planned Guild Trilogy. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal Review
Gr 5-8-Excerpts from 15-year-old Becca's diary interspersed with third-person narrative combine to produce a tale of high adventure, intrigue, and science fiction along the China coast in 1920. Following their parents' mysterious disappearance in the remote Sinkiang region, Becca and her younger brother, Doug, are sent from their home in India to live with their sea-captain uncle, whose research vessel they board in Shanghai. Through their inquisitiveness and spying, they learn of a secret society that may have had something to do with their parents' fate and of a very volatile substance called zoridium that their uncle is trying to retrieve from an evil warlord. Their curiosity leads to their capture and captivity on his island fortress-the site of a rousing showdown that sets the stage for the second volume in this trilogy. Memorable, over-the-top characters and an often unbelievable plot are united with fascinating sidebars and graphics, such as short biographies of people like Bohr and Einstein, archival photographs of old Shanghai, vintage newspaper clippings, a chart of the Morse code, diagrams of "inventions," or Doug's sketches of the action scenes. Several "confidential" full-color pull-outs provide detailed descriptions of the various vessels and of an ancient fighting order, the Sujing Quantou. Some readers may pore over the details in this novel; others will simply appreciate the comic adventure.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr. 8--11. The first book of the Guild Trilogy quickly and deftly plunges readers into an exotic corner of the first quarter of the twentieth century. Teenage siblings Rebecca and Douglas run through a series of adventures in a submarine, on the streets of Shanghai, and among pirates. They are bold, inquisitive, and creative, and they leave behind for readers' inspection numerous documents of their adventures, including Becca's diary, Doug's sketches, and such visual artifacts as maps and photos. First-time novelist Mowll spins a heady yarn, and his characters have some distinctive traits: Doug's speech, for example, is peppered with the term lethal. The reproductions, which are highly detailed, look suitably authentic and will have great appeal for readers who thrive on schematics and puzzles. By the end of the story, Becca and Doug have survived a variety of terrifying exploits and are still in search of their missing parents. A sequel will find a ready audience. --Francisca Goldsmith Copyright 2005 Booklist
Horn Book Review
Rebecca and Doug MacKenzie have been shuttled between relatives since the mysterious disappearance of their parents. After joining an uncle who is a ship's captain, they become embroiled in mystery and adventure in Shanghai. Diagrams, diary entries, and sketches further the illusion that this drawn-out quest really happened. Unfortunately, the stereotyped portrayal of Chinese villains is jarring. (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
When Mowll inherits his late great-aunt Rebecca MacKenzie's British estate, including her archives and 1920 diary, he is charged to prepare her memoirs. This first of a trilogy chronicles the fictional adventures of 15-year-old Rebecca and her 13-year-old brother Douglas who travel to Shanghai in 1920 to board a research ship with their uncle, Captain Fitzroy MacKenzie, after their parents mysteriously disappear. Excerpts from Rebecca's diary, four beautifully produced gatefolds detailing ships, weapons, and submersible crafts, wonderful pencil sketches, photographs (and more) add dimension and authenticity to the high-seas hijinks. Readers will revel in the exciting setting, the abundant science and history, a dangerous tiger, ruthless pirate warlords, the mystery of an ancient secret society and even a battle to keep the volatile substance zoridium out of the hands of evildoers. Unfortunately, the urgency of the siblings' search for their parents, the emotional core of the story, drowns in the wake of swashbuckling action. Budding scientists, inventors and fans of all things nautical, however, will still be enraptured by this lovingly created, highly visual offering. (reader's note, map, appendices, selected sources) (Fiction. 12+) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.