From the start, this pacy story felt to me like a kind of Agatha Christie for beginners, providing an interesting plot full of twists (none of which I guessed, despite being many years older than the target reader!) I loved the unusual setting of an alternative history, an early 20th century Britain in which airships rule the skies (air taxi to hop across London, anyone?) and the well-drawn, wide range of characters. The narrator is a 14 year old boy Oliver, his sidekick a slightly older girl Grace, who, in his teenage state, he finds far more alluring than his fledgling career working as an attendant on a long-distance airship, The Empress, travelling from London to Bombay.
The airship provides an exciting yet claustrophobic venue for a murder mystery, in classic detective mode, reminding me of some of Agatha Christie's best-known settings of remote islands and of course the Orient Express. The period detail added heaps of atmosphere - though I'm not sure I'd fancy travelling on an airship which allows passengers to smoke, or which has an outdoor viewing deck!
The character and backstory of young Oliver, expelled from his boarding school and trying to restore his reputation through work, added interest, in particular his occasional comparisons between school and the airship. The additional characters are drawn with detail and humour. Mr Reedy - "so thin my uncle could have picked his teeth with him" - and his malapropisms ("don't burn the midnight oil at both ends" was particularly entertaining.
I also enjoyed the references to classic sci-fi, which have given Oliver his sense of adventure. It's a typically neat touch that he is reading Jules Verne's "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" while soaring above the clouds in the airship. There are also references to real historical features - the mention of the doomed Lusitania, the Hindenbnurg and the Titanic in the first part of the book as examples of fine technology is a clever way of creating a sense of foreboding about the fate of the Empress and its passengers.
With each chapter ending on a cliffhanger, I think this book would engage even reluctant young teen readers, and delight those who are already avid readers. I'm passing on my copy to my 10-year-old daughter now, and I'm hoping that there will be more of Oliver's adventures soon - the author has certainly created an opportunity for a sequel at the end of this volume. I love the cover, by the way - spot on for the subject matter and tone of the story.
A highly recommended fun and light read for readers of 10 to adult.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author, whom I do not know personally, in return for an honest review.
In an alternative Britain, 14 year old Oliver starts a new job with his uncle on the largest airship built, The Empress. However, a curse seems to be on the ship as a passenger goes missing, a priceless jewel is stolen and a ghost has been seen on the ship, Oliver realises that not everything is as it seems. Is Oliver, along with other crew member Grace, able to figure out the mystery that is happening aboard The Empress?
Death on The Empress is a good steampunk mystery, and while I am older than the target reader, I enjoyed reading as I wanted to see what happened next. The book is a quick read and I could not guess what was going to happen next.
Oliver is an interesting character as he is an inquisitive teen who is not happy to leave a mystery unsolved, but is also friendly and gets on well with and tries to be helpful to everyone. All the other characters are unique and interesting, but some of them did feel a bit over the top.
The ending was surprising as I really did not see it coming and I am interested to see what happens next with Oliver. Both boys and girls will enjoy this book and I would recommend Death on The Empress to fans of Artemis Fowl.
I really enjoyed getting into the and embracing the steam-punk world of the Empress airship. This would be a brilliant book to read to older children or an adult reader such as myself. The characters were nicely drawn and very believable. I'm sure we have all met the social climbers, the bores and the boors, shown in the book. Our hero Oliver picks his way through whilst trying to solve a dasterdly crime. Most enjoyable.
A very nice little mystery for older children. I have enjoyed it because the writing is reminiscent of Agatha Christie's writing and this is a style I enjoy a lot. I am not comparing the two by the way! Death on the Empress is equally for boys or girls, many adults will enjoy it too. The story is written from the point of view of Oliver, 14, who is a nice young lad, bright and curious but who has a tendency of running into trouble. There is everything you need in this relatively short story (about 96 pages, a nice afternoon read). The mysterious stranger, death brought by an ancient curse, the clues left all along the way but you do not see them until the end. The ending, of course, I won't say, but it is like in old cosy mysteries, when all the guests are assembled, and the culprit among them is unveiled. I have given it a five stars, as good and enticing the writing is but I do have a little criticism. The story could have been a little bit longer. As it is, the readers have two choices : to believe there will be a number 2 or to make up their mind about what will happen next. I prefer the second. In a nutshell, if you have children aged between 9-14, you can easily give this book without reading it first. No bad language and in matter of 'romance', the most that happens is a chaste kiss on the cheek. Now, I am sure it is perfectly safe. Remember, when you read it, it is a cosy mystery yes, but a cosy mystery for children first. So, it is with this in mind that you have to read it. I have enjoyed it, I hope you'll do if you read it.