Published by Walden Pond Press on May 16th 2017
It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher — a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.
Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house — until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long-held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.
Twins Tess and Theo are named after the notorious Morningstar siblings, who disappeared years ago and left New York City with a cipher to solve – at which there was a treasure at the end. When their building, one designed by the Morningstars is bought and they have to vacate, the twins with the help of their friend and neighbor Jaime decide they must solve the cipher. What they don’t realize is what they’ve gotten themselves into, the danger behind trying to find the treasure and what will happen when they do.
I love this alternate NYC, one that has a steampunk vibe with it’s animal robots and strange building designs. Each of the three characters are unique and I love the diversity added with Jaime’s character. Tess and Theo seem a bit off, having their own obsessions and quirks. Even the adults in this novel have unique characteristics that make them memorable.
The story itself may seem slow at first, but there’s a lot of world building to dive into and it was done well, even having the beginning a flash of the past. The characters have a firm basis from the start and I love their unique talents and individuality. The cipher itself leads the trio on quite a few dangerous adventures and possibly more to come. The ending is killer so be prepared to wait for the next book with a lot still unanswered and many wonderings as to what could occur next.
Verdict: A fantastic start to a thrilling mystery adventure series with a bit of a steampunk feel.
About the Author:
Laura Ruby is the author of books for adults, teens, and children, including Bone Gap, a National Book Award finalist and Michael L. Printz Award winner, among dozens of other accolades. Her other books include the Edgar-nominated mystery Lily’s Ghosts, the Book Sense Pick Good Girls, and the acclaimed novels Play Me and Bad Apple. She is on the faculty of Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program and lives in the Chicago area. You can visit her online at www.lauraruby.com.
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