This is typical story by Joan Aiken of her fantastical history series. It centres on the joint fortunes of Lucas and Anna-Marie, orphaned heirs of a carpet factory. Braving the industrial horrors of Blastburn, a recurring town in the series, the two battle for survival. They learn many important lessons in looking after Lucas's tutor, Mr Oakapple, working both as match girl and tosh boy, even entering the employment of the carpet factory as a claw-cleaner. Through their adventures, they run afoul of the evil network of Bob Bluddward and eventually defeat him. Blastburn, the background for the story, is a very realistic picture of a grimy working town, and Aiken has obviously researched the period (although fictional, the timeline in The James III series can be linked to the 1800s). This is a good story, with enough twists in the plot to keep the reader interested.