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 sci-fi magazine, Thrilling Martian Tales. Instead, he spends his days keeping his eccentric family from complete disaster . . . that is, until the villainous archaeologist Sir Titus Dane kidnaps Edward's parents as part of a scheme to loot an undiscovered dragon tomb. Edward sets out on a perilous journey to save his parents and protect the dragon tombs in the process. Turns out spywork is a bit more challenging than he had imagined. . . .
Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire is a classic adventure story, full of fun, humor and heart with stunning illustrations by Jeremy Holmes throughout. The intergalactic fun and adventure continues in Book 2 of the Secrets of the Dragon Tomb series, The Emperor of Mars.
“Science fiction meets classic adventure tales in this quirky novel, and it’s a real treat to know that it’s the first in an intended series.” The Bulletin
Also in the Secrets of the Dragon Tomb series:
Secrets of the Dragon Tomb
The Emperor of Mars
About the Author
Patrick Samphire grew up in England and Zambia. He holds a PhD in physics from the University of Essex and attended the Clarion Writers Workshop in Seattle. He lives in Wales with his family. Secrets of the Dragon Tomb was his debut novel.
Jeremy Holmes is the creative mind behind Mutt Ink, a graphic design studio, and the illustrator of many children's books. His first book, There Was an Old Lady, was awarded Bologna Razzi’s Opera Prima award at the 2010 Bologna Book Fair. He lives in Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
Secrets of the Dragon Tomb
By Patrick Samphire
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2016 Patrick Samphire
All rights reserved.
A Complete Disaster
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.
The bushbear is an evil-looking creature, all spikes and tongues and damp, moldy fur. It lives deep in the wet, slimy folds of tanglemoss, only peeking out at sundown with tiny, bloodshot eyes. If you can drag it into the daylight, it curls up tighter than a hedgehog and you can take it back with you to deal with the crannybugs.
Bushbears try to eat crannybugs, but that's not what bothers the crannybugs. What they really don't like is the bushbear's horrible appearance and general bad temper. Put a bushbear nearby, and the crannybugs get so offended they move out.
Of course, first I had to find one, and that was turning out to be harder than I'd hoped.
From up here on the pillar of rock, I could see the whole of Papa's estate. The house itself was a great, sprawling mess of a building on the shores of the Valles Marineris. To either side, thick stands of fern-trees whispered and chattered to each other whenever the wind blew, but in front of the house, the lawns stretched down to the water, and good English oaks lined the drive.
Right now, the lawns were being covered by stalls and trestle tables for Mama's long-planned garden party, which was due to take place tomorrow afternoon. Ridiculous, fake native Martian hovels were being erected on the edge of the fern-trees, and workmen were arguing over the half-finished, towering dragon tomb that Mama was having built beside the water's edge just for the party. Beside it, a steam lifter stood motionless, its enormous arms spread wide, puffing steam from its mouth into the clear sky.
The dozens of pillars of Martian rock behind the house formed a maze of gullies and dead ends. Mama had wanted them flattened so she could have a proper, carefully designed wilderness like the one on her father's estate, but Papa wouldn't hear of it.
Which was a good thing, because without the pillars, the blankets of tanglemoss wouldn't grow, there would be no bushbears, and we wouldn't be able to do a thing about the crannybugs that would soon collapse the house around our ears.
So, as I said, Putty and I were on top of a pillar of rock. Although, when I said "on top," I meant Putty was on top, looking after the rope, while I swung halfway down with the rope around my waist, clawing through the thick moss.
I tried to imagine myself as Captain W. A. Masters, battling my way to the lair of a tyrant of Ancient Mars. Except Captain W. A. Masters would have a helichute or sharp-clawed grip-gloves and would swing easily down the precarious rock face. He certainly wouldn't have to rely on Putty keeping him safe.
There's something you should know about Putty. First, her name isn't Putty. She's my little sister, and her name is Parthenia, but "Putty" fits her far better. Putty is nine years old, three years younger than me. She is incredibly enthusiastic and as impressionable as wet putty. Show her a new idea, and she'll throw herself into it like a diver from the top of a cliff.
A month ago, for instance, she met a photonic mechanician and spent the next few weeks poring over books about photonic capture and emission devices. Before that, she read an article by the celebrated xenologist Frank Herbert Kynes and decided to dedicate her life to the study of sandfish. She even got halfway through building a sandfish containment tank in the corner of her bedroom before she encountered the photonic mechanician. And before that ... Well, you get the idea. Right now, Putty had decided she was going to be Papa. This was one of her more common obsessions. At least once a year, she turned herself into a little doppelgänger of Papa, complete with tweed jacket, disheveled hair, and eyeglasses she didn't need, to Mama's complete despair.
The other thing you need to know about Putty — and this one is much more important — is that she's very easily distracted. Which might make it seem odd that I would be hanging fifty feet up in the air, suspended only by a rope that Putty was looking after. Well, it was odd. But the chances of me being able to persuade either of my older sisters, Olivia and Jane, to do anything so improper and unladylike were slightly less than zero.
Which left me with Putty, who was at least enthusiastic.
"I say, Edward."
I shoved my way free of a fold of tanglemoss and shook the damp from my face. Putty was looking down at me.
"Are you holding that rope?" I shouted.
A guilty look crossed Putty's face, and her head disappeared. A moment later, she reappeared. "Yes," she called.
"What is it?" I said. I dug one hand deep into the tanglemoss, just in case.
"Is that a pterodactyl, do you think?"
I twisted around and squinted in the direction she was pointing. High above the house, coming toward us from over the glittering water of the Valles Marineris, was a tiny but growing black speck.
You don't often see wild pterodactyls these days, but from time to time you can glimpse one flapping past, far out over the water. I'd heard there were several breeding colonies on the Chinese side of the Valles Marineris, and a hundred miles or so down the coast from us, well away from civilization, there was a pterodactyl reserve. Even so, it would be rare for one to fly so close to where humans lived.
The brightness of the sun and the glare from the water made it impossible for me to see the shape clearly, but it didn't look quite right. It was bobbing and slipping from side to side in an unpredictable, jerky manner, quite unlike the usual smooth glide of a pterodactyl. A strange whirring sound accompanied it, too, growing quickly louder.
It sagged down briefly, almost catching on a chimney.
"Oh, no," I said as I realized what it was. "Oh, no."
It was a cycle-copter, but its balloon had almost deflated and was dragging behind it. From what I could see, its springs were completely wound down. Its rider was pedaling as fast as humanly possible, but it was hardly enough to keep the device up. The blades spun manically above his head.
The cycle-copter brushed the tops of the fern-trees, then tipped to one side and stuttered its way up again, heading right toward the pillars of red rock.
The rider wrenched one of his steering levers. His cycle-copter lurched around the first of the pillars, slipping sideways and down. The rider gave a shout of alarm and tugged the other steering lever. The cycle-copter straightened. Now it was aiming directly at me.
"Down, you idiot!" I shouted. "Go down!"
The rider's legs spun even faster, and the cycle-copter surged up.
But not far enough. The pillars were at least a hundred feet tall. No amount of pedaling was going to lift a damaged cycle-copter and rider that high.
"No!" I yelled, waving my free arm wildly.
A grimace of horror crossed the rider's face, and he did absolutely the worst thing possible. He let go of both steering levers and covered his face with his hands. The cycle-copter spun, completely out of control. It crunched into the pillar, not six feet above me, and buried itself in the tanglemoss.
The rope holding me parted, sliced neatly through by the copter blades, and dropped down.
Parts of cycle-copter clattered past me. A spring broke free with a twang. I hid my face in the tanglemoss. A shower of brass cogs spun by, bouncing off my shoulders and back.
"Edward!" Putty shouted.
I pulled my face free to shout back that I was unhurt, but before I could, a great tearing sound came from above.
The whole blanket of tanglemoss ripped free of the rock, and I was falling.CHAPTER 2
A Wet Landing
If you're going to fall fifty feet with the remains of a cycle-copter right behind you, it's a good idea to do it in a blanket of tanglemoss. Tanglemoss is softer than a pillow — although a whole lot wetter — and can be several feet thick.
I hit the ground with a squelch and a thump that knocked the breath from my chest. Pieces of metal thudded around me, embedding themselves in the moss. A heavy copter blade speared the ground a couple of yards away. With a yelp, the rider hit the moss beside me.
What on Mars had he been thinking? He could have killed me. A couple of yards lower and he might have skewered me.
The rider groaned. His brass goggles were covered in dirty water from the tanglemoss. He peered at me through his obscured lenses.
"Good Lord," he said. "Are we dead?"
I recognized that voice.
"Yes," I snapped.
I leaned forward and pulled his goggles up. He blinked at me.
"Cousin Freddie," I said. And I'd thought this day couldn't get any worse.
"Ah," he said. "Cousin Edward. Ah-ha-ha. Well."
Freddie wasn't actually my cousin. He was the son of my dad's oldest friend, Charles Winchester. When he'd been younger, he'd spent so much time at our house that we'd started calling him our cousin. Now I wished we hadn't. I mean, I knew he was an idiot, but this was too much even for him.
I clambered to my feet and glared at him. "Haven't you ever ridden a cycle-copter before?"
Cousin Freddie rubbed his eyes, smearing the muck from his sleeve across the only clean part of his face. "Ah. Not as such. But how hard can it be?"
I looked at the wreckage around us and raised an eyebrow.
"Right, right," Cousin Freddie said. "I see what you mean. Not all my fault, though. See, no one told me the springs would run out when I was halfway across the Valles Marineris. Then some pesky bird mistook my balloon for its dinner. Had to make the rest of the way by pedal power alone. Bit of an exertion, to tell you the truth." He poked around in the wreckage and came up with a polished walking stick, topped by a silver handle. "Ah. Almost thought I'd lost it." He swung it happily around.
I boggled at him.
It was hard to believe, but when he'd been younger, everyone had thought Freddie was brilliant. They had been sure he was going to be a stunning success. Then, when he'd turned sixteen, something had changed and he'd suddenly become an amiable idiot. I was sure he must have fallen on his head. My uncle Henry had even taken to referring to him as "The Idiot Freddie" after the unfortunate incident with the stalking-grass and my aunt Amelia's new evening gown. But I didn't think I'd ever heard of him doing something quite this stupid.
"What on Mars possessed you to try to cross the Valles Marineris on a cycle-copter?"
"Ah," Cousin Freddie said. "Well. Bit of a story there, as it happens. You see, there was this rather pretty girl in Chinese Mars, who I thought —"
The sound of scrambling footsteps interrupted us. Putty leaped the last few feet to the ground and came racing toward us. She stopped a couple of paces away.
"Cousin Freddie," she said. "We weren't expecting you."
Freddie brightened. "Cousin Parthenia? My. You've grown. And what an — er — interesting outfit." Putty was wearing a miniature version of Papa's rather dated frock coat and breeches.
Putty peered closer at Freddie. "What's that on your face?"
Freddie touched his upper lip somewhat self-consciously. "This? You noticed? Ha-ha. My mustache. Don't you think it rather dashing?"
"It looks like a dead caterpillar. Why are you wearing a mustache?"
"Ah. Well," Freddie said. "There's a bit of a story there. It's all part of a disguise. You see, I was —"
"It's not a very good disguise," Putty said. "I recognized you straightaway."
Freddie looked aggrieved. "It's still growing. I think it looks quite Prussian."
"Hang on a moment," I broke in. "What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be away at Oxford. On Earth," I added, just in case it hadn't really sunk in. "At university." As far as I knew, he should have been studying right now. He wasn't due home for months.
Freddie grimaced. "Ah. Yes. Well. You see, there's a bit of a story there, too." He let out an awkward laugh. "There was this little matter of a disagreement about a boxing match, and, well, what happened was —" He cleared his throat. "Anyway, I'm sure you don't want to hear the details." He swept out a wet hand, spraying dirty water everywhere. "Why are we standing out here dripping like a pair of bath sponges? I'm starving. I haven't had a bite to eat since yesterday." He leaned closer to Putty. "If you're ever in Chinese Mars, keep away from those little skewers of meat they sell. Didn't agree with me at all. Rather unfortunate effects over the Valles Marineris. I wouldn't have wanted to be those fishes, I can tell you!" He took Putty's arm. "Come, Cousin Parthenia. Dinner awaits!"
I narrowed my eyes as I watched them go. Freddie had avoided my question. He was hiding something. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Freddie was in trouble again, and trouble followed him around like a beaver-hound chasing a landfish.
Excerpted from Secrets of the Dragon Tomb by Patrick Samphire. Copyright © 2016 Patrick Samphire. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Sullivan Family,
Part One: Uninvited Guests,
Chapter One: A Complete Disaster,
Chapter Two: A Wet Landing,
Chapter Three: The Perils of Stickleberry Juice,
Chapter Four: Caught!,
Chapter Five: The Great Sir Titus Dane,
Chapter Six: The Worst Party Ever,
Chapter Seven: Sneaking About,
Chapter Eight: Destroyed,
Part Two: Into the Wilds,
Chapter Nine: The Chase Begins,
Chapter Ten: Secrets and Spies,
Chapter Eleven: Interesting Facts About Rocks,
Chapter Twelve: A Suspect,
Chapter Thirteen: Attack of the Killer Crabs,
Chapter Fourteen: Slime,
Chapter Fifteen: Lost in the Wilderness,
Chapter Sixteen: Hunted,
Part Three: The Dragon Tombs of Mars,
Chapter Seventeen: Lunae City,
Chapter Eighteen: The Museum of Martian Antiquities,
Chapter Nineteen: Prisoners,
Chapter Twenty: Into the Desert,
Chapter Twenty-One: Swords on the Sand,
Chapter Twenty-Two: Retreat,
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Secret of the Dragon Tomb,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I got to read an arc of this book and it was a super fun, steampunk adventure! Secret of the Dragon Tomb is a story about Edward who wants more than anything to be a spy like the hero of his favorite magazine. Instead he's stuck taking care of his family, which includes a precocious younger sister, two older sisters trying to fit into society, a mother who really only favors his oldest sister and a father who pays him hardly any mind. Throw in an idiot cousin and Edward is almost always overlooked. But when men kidnap his family in order to steal his father's latest invention, Edward learns that maybe looks can be deceiving when it comes to his family, and that maybe spying isn't all it's cracked up to be. I was immediately in love with the book within the first few pages. Samphire does such an excellent job of worldbuilding his mars, especially when it comes to creatures and creepy crawlies. I absolutely loved reading about all the different kinds of pests and bugs they have in British mars. All of the characters are so incredibly likeable. Whether it's 9 year old Putty, brawling with adults like the best of them, his cousin who's not quite the idiot he appears to be, or his older sister who's maybe got more under her petticoats that he would have guessed, they all have moments where they shine brightly. And Edward's heart and loyalty and strength carry the story forward in a fast paced adventure. I think this would appeal to fans of steampunk, of science fiction, of historical fiction, of adventure. There's a bit of something for everyone.
I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. When Edward's parents are kidnapped for his Father's genius invention, he and his sisters, along with their mysterious cousin race across Mars (yep, the planet) to save them. Simply put, this book is hilarious! And I had to keep stealing it back from my 11-year-old who sneaked it away whenever I set it down. The characters are outrageous, individual, and so much fun. The author's quick wit will keep you laughing even when the characters are in horrible danger. Even though this is only book 1, the story lines are all pulled together into a very satisfactory conclusion, while still setting us up for the next adventure. And the awesome news is that we will get to hang out with these characters again!
I loved this book! Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is an amazing and inventive adventure that takes place in a thrilling world I will be thinking about long after reading the last pages. The story takes place on Mars, but it’s not a Mars like we know. There are dinosaurs, clockwork servants, and Zeplins soaring through the sky. Against this exciting backdrop, twelve-year-old Edward dreams of having adventures like the ones he reads about. When a family friend comes to visit, and news of an undiscovered dragon tomb surfaces, Edward gets his adventure. He’ll have to brave the Martian landscape and many dangers to save his family. This is a great, gripping read that I think kids who like fantasy adventures will really enjoy. Edward and the other heroes of the story, particularly his younger sister Putty, are whole and compelling, and the world building is fantastic! The illustrations were an unexpected bonus!
I absolutely LOVED this book! Here's why: 1) It's hilarious! I had to pause my reading many, many times because I couldn't stop laughing out loud. Think Jane Austen meets Monty Python. Enough said. 2) It's thrilling! The plot is fast-paced and mysterious, full of action and twists and turns and surprises, as the characters pursue a goal that's high stakes and personal for all of them. 3) It's set in a totally fresh and compelling world! I guess I'd call it historical sci fi, or steampunk, but that doesn't even begin to describe it. It's 1816 on British Mars, where the British-Martians subscribe to Regency Society and mannerisms and live in typical British homes of the period (on earth), while dealing with unusual creatures and landscapes and clockwork inventions and discoveries unearthed from dragon tombs and Native Martians and inventors and dinosaurs and naturally, evil villains. and 4) It's full of fantastic characters! I loved 12 year-old Edward who wants to be a spy, his younger sister Putty (actual name Parthenia) who is way more spy-like than he is, his older cousin Freddie who's extremely un-spy-like, and his older sister Olivia who (like one of the previous three) is full of surprises. Not to mention the supporting cast, who are all equally as interesting and funny and wonderful. In short, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is a wildly fun and completely lovable middle grade read. I highly recommend this book to anyone - human, Martian, or mechanical - with a sense of humor, a sense of adventure, or any sense at all. I predict Patrick Samphire is going to need his own water abacus to count up all the five-star reviews for Secrets of the Dragon Tomb!