Quest adventure, animal fantasy and baby steampunk all figure into this second madcap romp around the universe with hedgehogs Esmeralda and Trundle.
Aided by cheerful troubadour squirrel Jack Nimble, Trundle and Esmeralda dash from planet to planet in a vast outer-space archipelago, pursued by pirates. Badger Blocks (read: tarot cards) foresaw Trundle and Esmeralda gathering six ancient, hidden crowns that together wield great power; this second installment of six naturally focuses on the second crown, which is made of iron. They travel by skyboat, which resembles an old ocean vessel more than a spaceship: "We have to tack! Release the windward jib sheet." Steampunky details also include conveniently present or absent gravity and oxygen, gadgets with "swinging pendulums... flickering dials... [and] whirring flywheels" and a massive clock with noisy "cogwheels and levers and hammers." Animal protagonists are quite human, whether "apple-cheeked" or showing a "face red with wrath." Jones' plot is peppy and his prose funny, sporting excellent names—"Pounceman Donk"—and word strings—"the meanest, bloodthirstiest, wickedest pirate ever to sail the skies." It's only too bad that steampunk's gypsy stereotype lives on: "Roamany" is shorthand for exotic, unreliable and greedy.
A fast and jolly gambol, with four more promised. (Steampunk. 7-10)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Told in 10 chapters with intelligent language and lively dialogue, the magical adventures of hedgehogs Esmeralda and Trundle continue, along with a new companion, a squirrel named Jack Nimble the bard. Trundle, the reluctant finder of the first crown in Trundle's Quest (Greenwillow, 2011), would rather be back in Port Shiverstones tending his cabbages, but fast-talking, adventurous Esmeralda decides otherwise. After her stowaway escape from her pirate kidnappers, Esmeralda and Trundle come together again in search of the rest of the elemental crowns, which, when found, will unite the Sundered Lands. When Esmeralda meets up with her Aunt Millie and shows her the crown and key decorated with the coat of arms of the Kings of Widdershins, Millie reveals that a raven foretold Esmeralda and Trundle would be the finders of the crowns. But is Aunt Millie using magic to work for her niece, or against her? Esmeralda is a spirited and strong character described as crazy and brilliant by her friends, and readers will welcome her heroism and quick thinking. This series is sure to capture the imagination of children who will grow to enjoy The Hobbit and Erin Hunter's animal adventures. Chalk's intricately detailed black-and-white illustrations bring the magical animals to life.—Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL