Alison DeLuca hits the ground running in the opening chapters of 'The Night Watchman Express', and the story never stops moving until the last page.This tale combines everything that makes for a good story: well crafted characters, good plot and great adventures.
Gradually, Miriam begins to find common ground with the Marchpane's son, Simon, and their other young `guest' Neil. A nanny who is both wise and skilled in certain magics is hired, and she saves the day, sort of. Mana is a woman who is of a race of people, who are considered to be second-class citizens, and contrary to the Marchpane's hopes, she turns out to be exactly what both Miriam and the two boys needed.
There is a reluctant camaraderie that develops between Miriam and the two boys. The three of them do a certain amount of exploring the grounds of the estate, and discover a strange machine that her father has constructed. Another interesting thread is also Miriam's strange emotional attachment to her father's typewriter-like machine, the Crown Phoenix, which she has claimed for her own since his death, and keeps hidden in her room.
The Marchpanes are not pleased by Mana's good influence on Miriam, and they fear her. They fire Mana and get rid of Miriam.
Nightly Miriam has heard the mournful Night Watchman Express, a mysterious train that passes close to her home, on its way to a sinister place called Devil's Kitchen where children are enslaved, and become subjects of evil experiments. Though she has never known where the train actually went, the sound of it has always terrified her.
In the course of her experiences, Miriam becomes a strong young woman, and her resourcefulness and courage make for a great adventure. Mana proves to be not just a governess, and the two boys have parts to play in the story.
Miriam strength and courage make both friends and enemies for her in the frightening underworld of the Devil's Kitchen. She grows into a much more likeable, resourceful girl, while trying to maintain her sense of self and keeping her dignity while being forced to labor and live in the most the appalling conditions. Simon also is forced to find his courage and his strength and use his wits to survive the situation that he finds himself in.
Lizzie's and Ninna's stories are told almost as if they were in a fairy tale, but it is a tale with a gritty steampunk quality that makes it a perfect rainy weekend read. There is danger, there is darkness, and suspense; there is a serious good vs. evil plot. I found that I was thinking about the characters at the end, and wondering what was going to happen next.
I LOVE this series! I am buying this series in BOOK FORM (!) for my nieces and nephews. They will love it as much as I do. You can also read Alison DeLuca's wonderful post on her characters Neil, Kyoge and Riki at my other blog, Life in the Realm of Fantasy.