Note: This title will be released from the publisher on September 29, 2015.
Fires of Invention is the first in a new middle grade series that is sure to be a hit with both girl and boy readers. In this first installment, we are introduced to the world of Cove, a sheltered and strict community buried deep in the center of a mountain. Inside the walls of Cove, the community is separated into levels, each one filling a need for the population. Readers see Cove through the eyes of Trenton Coleman, a 13 year-old boy who has a penchant for creativity and a dangerous impulse to improve upon the mechanical objects that surround him. Unfortunately for Trenton, creativity is forbidden in Cove, and inventions are so feared that being an inventor is equivalent to being the worst kind of criminal. I thought that this was the most unique thing about this book -- I talk a lot about world building on here, and this series has a dystopian premise (which has been overplayed in recent years) but also some really interesting touches that makes it stand out from the ever-growing crowd of dystopian novels. The idea that creativity is so forbidden that the mere speaking of the word "invention" could cause shivers is one that I think could prompt some great discussions for young readers about the power of words and why freedom of expression is so important.
Trenton first runs into trouble when he builds a new machine to impress a girl in his class (typical pre-teen antics), only to wind up threatened by the highest authorities in Cove. To make up for his crimes, Trenton offers to perform a dangerous stunt. In trying to recompense, Trenton discovers something unique -- a tool otherwise unknown to the mechanics of Cove. Which means that someone (other than Trenton) has been inventing. Though Trenton tries to resist the pull of new discoveries, he finds himself involved with a girl named Kallista, whose own quest for answers aligns with Trenton's mystery. The two of them band together and soon discover that there are great and dangerous secrets buried inside the walls of Cove, and that without their help, the people that they love will never discover the truth about the world in which they live.
Though I liked Trenton's character and really enjoyed seeing all of these discoveries made from his perspective, which was torn between those he loved (who feared authority) and Kallista (who did not), my favorite character was Kallista and I would love to see the story from her perspective as well. Female readers who find themselves drawn towards more traditionally masculine roles and hobbies (in this book, mechanics) will appreciate how Savage took that gender role and completely obliterated it. I think it's rare to find books that have strong male and female characters that work together so nicely and still have authentic conflicts and I have to applaud Savage for that. The story is engaging the entire way through-- with mysterious clues and lots of secrecy that are mirrored in the mechanics as Trenton and Kallista fit together a mysterious invention left behind by Kallista's father. When the truth was unveiled, I was shocked and wanting to pick up the next book immediately, though no word yet on when it will be out. I will certainly be purchasing this for my classroom library and would recommend it for middle grade readers who enjoy fantasy worlds and dystopian themes.
Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Title: Fires of Invention (The Mysteries of Cove #1)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Expected Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Source: Advanced Reader Copy provided by Net Galley
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!