Julius and the soulcatcher by Tim Hehir

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Text Publishing, 2016. ISBN 9781925240177
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Charles Darwin. Orchids. Diaries. Victorian England. Steampunk. Botany. Time travel. Charles Darwin's diary holds the key to the next enthralling Watchmaker novel Julius and the soulcatcher. It is 1838 and orchid mania is sweeping across London, everyone is keen to acquire a soulcatcher orchid with its invasive tendrils and purpose to take the souls of its hosts - animals or people. Apprentice watchmaker Julius Caesar Higgins and his accomplice orphan Emily are once again embroiled in another multi-layered mystery, chased by evil body snatchers and mastermind Mr Tock. Where are the orchids being propagated and why do they need blood and bone fertiliser? Hehir brings the darker side of London to life, fast cab rides through darkened streets, a bare-knuckle fight, rooftop escapes and the frightening Animal House of Lord Bloomingbury. His close attention to detail is evident, from the shops, drawing rooms, the orphanage kitchen, everyday items to the historic events and figures, even using the vernacular of the day, all add to the richness of this narrative.
The cover draws the reader into the story, here Abigail the giant prayingmantis-like figure made from razors, kitchen knives and pocket watch casing eyes stretches as a silhouette reaching menacingly for Julius, Emily and their mentor Mr Flynn. Between the time loop and time-jump, using the special power of the pocket watch that leads to a strange sojourn in Brazil to the source of the soulcatcher orchids, there is also time for Julius to search for his lost family.
Julius and the soulcatcher delivers a rich, multilayered narrative with relatable characters, fast-paced action, 19th century technology and designs and unique alternate worlds in this science fiction fantasy. Julius and the watch-maker has also been published with a re-imaged cover, here the eye-catching silhouette of the watch-maker looms large over Julius as he escapes from the malevolent forces preparing for war.
Rhyllis Bignell