Castle in the Stars Vol. 1: The Space Race of 1869 HC
Publisher: 0:01 First Second
Release Date: August 30, 2017
Price: $19.99
Creator: Alex Alice
Format: 64 pgs., Full-Color, Hardcover
ISBN: 978-1-6276-2493-8
Age Rating: Grades 3-7
ICv2 Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

This French creation is Jules Verne meets Alexandre Dumas, with a bit of steampunk technology.  The result is a story in which Bavaria, about to fall under the influence of the Prussians, launches its own "spaceship" in 1869.

Mad science, mad royalty, slapstick humor, snippets of real and alternate history, and delightful pacing enliven this story, the first volume in a series.  For those who know anything about Ludwig of Bavaria, the story is doubly amusing, since his odd design sense and tendency to hire designers willing to go along with his whims was noteworthy.  Thus, his designer’s attempt to put truly remarkable frills on board a flying ship is outstanding in its royal insanity.

The more serious story, beginning with a woman scientist trying to prove her dangerous theory, and the consequences for her family and others, is interesting for many reasons.  One is as an example of a woman mad scientist, relatively rare in fiction.  Another is the use of steampunk pseudo-science as the basis for the whole story, but not in the usual way.  This writer actually seems to understand the Greek theories of the aether, rather than simply using the word.

The color palette of the artwork is almost in pastel tones, oddly subdued for the style of story being told, but works well overall.

The book is suitable for teens and up, and some younger readers will find it interesting, although the political complexities may confuse them.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.