Joshua Mowll studied at art school before working as a graphic artist in newspapers. He has worked for The Mail on Sunday since 1994, illustrating everything from maps, diagrams and space flights to medical procedures and aircraft crashes. Joshua didn't think about writing until he inherited the Honourable Guild of Specialists archive from his great-aunt. This is his first book.
Mowll's intriguing debut novel introduces siblings Becca and Doug. An opening "note to the reader" adds an air of authenticity to the fiction by identifying the author as heir to his deceased great-aunt (Becca), who had requested that he finish putting her "archive into a publishable form." Set in 1920, the elaborately plotted saga opens in Shanghai, as Becca and Doug (whose parents disappeared a year ago during a mysterious expedition to western China) arrive at a research ship captained by their uncle, their newly appointed guardian. Also on board is a French scientist who had been kidnapped by a Chinese warlord and forced to create torpedoes using a powerful explosive. The teens explore the ship in hopes of discovering why their uncle is so secretive about his South China Sea mission, and discover messages outlining the man's assignment from the board of the "Honourable Guild of Specialists," an organization whose raison d'?tre readers learn only at tale's end. Inquisitive, impulsive Doug and cautious, thoughtful Becca play key roles in accomplishing the complex task, which entails a dramatic showdown with the warlord. Becca's diary entries and sidebars with background information supplement the narrative, along with drawings from Doug's sketchbook, cutaway views of the ship, maps and foldout pages marked "Confidential Material." As the energetically paced story winds down, Becca and Doug make a pact to search for their parents, setting the scene for book two of the planned Guild Trilogy. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Gr 5-8-Excerpts from 15-year-old Becca's diary interspersed with third-person narrative combine to produce a tale of high adventure, intrigue, and science fiction along the China coast in 1920. Following their parents' mysterious disappearance in the remote Sinkiang region, Becca and her younger brother, Doug, are sent from their home in India to live with their sea-captain uncle, whose research vessel they board in Shanghai. Through their inquisitiveness and spying, they learn of a secret society that may have had something to do with their parents' fate and of a very volatile substance called zoridium that their uncle is trying to retrieve from an evil warlord. Their curiosity leads to their capture and captivity on his island fortress-the site of a rousing showdown that sets the stage for the second volume in this trilogy. Memorable, over-the-top characters and an often unbelievable plot are united with fascinating sidebars and graphics, such as short biographies of people like Bohr and Einstein, archival photographs of old Shanghai, vintage newspaper clippings, a chart of the Morse code, diagrams of "inventions," or Doug's sketches of the action scenes. Several "confidential" full-color pull-outs provide detailed descriptions of the various vessels and of an ancient fighting order, the Sujing Quantou. Some readers may pore over the details in this novel; others will simply appreciate the comic adventure.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.