Secrets of the Dragon Tomb
Mars in 1816 is a world of high Society, deadly danger, and strange clockwork machines. Pterodactyls glide through the sky, automatic servants hand out sandwiches at elegant garden parties, and in the north, the great dragon tombs hide marvels of Ancient Martian technology.
Twelve-year-old Edward Sullivan has always dreamed of becoming a spy like the ones he reads of in his favorite magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster … that is, until the villainous archeologist, Sir Titus Dane, kidnaps Edward’s parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb.
Edward sets off in pursuit across the Martian wilderness. With him are his brilliant and outrageous little sister, Putty, his impossibly starchy older sister, Olivia, and his secretive cousin, Freddie. Together they must evade Sir Titus’s minions, battle mechanical nasties, and escape deadly Martian hunting machines. If they can’t, they will never uncover the secrets of the dragon tomb and rescue Edward’s family.
Paperback edition to be published July 18th, 2017.
Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, by Patrick Samphire, is my favorite book of 2016 thus far. It is the sort of book that renews one’s faith that middle grade science fiction/fantasy books can still offer new and wondrous things even for one who has read thousands of them.
I was dangling from a rope, fifty feet up the side of a great pillar of red Martian rock, with my arms buried in a sopping curtain of tanglemoss and bury-beetles trying to build a hill over my head, when I finally realized I had chosen the wrong summer vacation.
My friend Matthew, Viscount Harrison’s son, had invited me to spend the summer with him. But no. I’d decided to come home instead.
What an idiot.
Right about now, Matthew’s family would be settling down for their tea or going for a quiet stroll in the warm afternoon air. In the evening, when the glitterswarms rose from the depths of the Valles Marineris to spread like a cloth of gold across the sky, they would raise a toast to King George, like any normal family on British Mars.
What they would absolutely, definitely not be doing was swaying dangerously halfway up a giant stack of rock, hunting for an angry bushbear.
This hadn’t exactly been my plan when I got up this morning.
What I had planned was to get my latest copy of Thrilling Martian Tales, lock my bedroom door, and be left alone until lunchtime. I’d finished my chores and even made a great big “Do Not Disturb” sign for my door to keep my little sister, Putty, out.
In the last issue of Thrilling Martian Tales, Captain W. A. Masters, British-Martian spy, had been left hanging by one hand from a mountain temple while the tyrant’s dragon swooped down upon him.
I’d hardly been able to sit still all month, waiting to find out what would happen in the next issue. If I had been Captain Masters, I would have waited until the dragon was almost upon me, then launched myself onto its neck, clambered onto its back, and battled the tyrant riding it. But Captain Masters always did something unexpected. Today, I would find out what.
Or I would have, if our malfunctioning ro-butler hadn’t wandered off, taking the mail with him.
I caught up with the ro-butler just in time to see him coming down the attic ladder carrying three parasols and a wig stand, but no mail. So, with a sigh, I climbed up into the horrific chaos of our attic to see where he might have put it.
I didn’t find my Thrilling Martian Tales, but what I did find was an infestation of crannybugs. The tiny creatures had snuck in during the night and built their little glass palaces under the rafters. Now they were hanging out their miniature silk flags. Soon, they would be multiplying.
I put my head into my hands and groaned.
Matthew had every issue of Thrilling Martian Tales, back to the rare issue no. 1 with the free clockwork death spinner that Captain Masters had used to destroy the Emerald Tyrant’s flying palace.
I’d never even read that issue. And there wouldn’t have been any crannybugs in Viscount Harrison’s house. If there had been, I wouldn’t have had to deal with them. Viscount Harrison’s valet would have sent out to Isaac’s Xenological Emporium for a consignment of catbirds to chase the crannybugs right back out of the attic. Or, if Isaac’s was out of catbirds, he might have sent the automatic servants up to the attic, armed with dusters and drills, to clear away the crannybugs’ palaces, and hope the creatures would leave in a huff.
But no. Here I was instead, while my family tootled about in their own little worlds, leaving it all to me.
Any normal family would do something that would actually get rid of the crannybugs, before they ate completely through the rafters and collapsed the roof down on top of us all.
Not my family.
My family is not good at that kind of thing. They wouldn’t notice the crannybugs until the house collapsed and they were sitting there in the dust and rubble, wondering what had happened.
Which left it to me to save us all from complete disaster, as always.
That was why, an hour later, Putty and I found ourselves on top of one of those pillars of rock, searching through the thick curtains of tanglemoss for the only thing — other than a catbird — that could clear out an infestation of crannybugs: a bushbear.