Castle in The Stars: The Space Race of 1869 is a delightful adventure and the first part of the Castle In The Stars series set within a world much like our own yet, from the cover, the reader is filled with an overwhelming sense of wonderment. The story focuses on a world on the brink of discovering the mythical element, aether, which takes the reader on a fantastical journey that’s both exciting and full of suspense.
Castle in The Stars: The Space Race of 1869 begins with a strong introduction to the main character’s mother, Claire, who has dedicated her life to the exploration and discovery of aether, an element first proposed by Plato and used in various gravitational theories to help explain gravity. The character’s dedication to science is admirable, going as far as risking her life for the discovery. I find Claire to be a likeable character and her journey acts as the focal point of the story and the main driving force for the ambitions of the main characters, Seraphin and his father, Archibald.
The mystery builds almost immediately as Claire’s journal falls to an unknown location on earth, successfully drawing the reader in from the title page as the story cuts to a year later. The next few pages are used to give us some insight into the characters after the disappearance of Claire and the subtlety of the writing is effective in showing the grief that Seraphin and Archibald are experiencing by using their actions as hints to the reader. It’s not long before a mysterious letter arrives, signaling the true beginning of the main story and the end of any normal life for Seraphin and Archibald.
Without spoiling too much, from here on the story takes on the form of a fantastical adventure, a modern fairy tale in which magic has been replaced with science, yet the story provides enough historical context through the attitudes of the grown-up, Victorian-era characters and the current state of Germany at the time, to allow it to remain grounded enough to almost be believable. With some narrow escapes from danger, Seraphin and Archibald meet a delightful cast of supporting characters that help aid them through their confrontation with dangerous men, the political intrigue that surrounds them, and their final goal of following Claire’s aspirations. The story only becomes more magnificently well-crafted as it continues without the need for blood, gore and violence, and the ending will leave you wanting to read the next book immediately to discover the conclusion to the tale.
The story is well-crafted, featuring deep characters with distinct personalities. Every character is utilised to their full potential as they all play important roles within the story. The characters and villains are also likeable. While some are dreamers like Seraphin, others are more pragmatic and in-line with Victorian values that would have existed at the time, providing the story with a multitude of perspectives as the events within the story unfold. The settings within the story are both fantastical and intriguing. Every new setting and plot point draws in the reader further due to their fantastic visual design and almost otherworldly look, right up until the story reaches a satisfying conclusion for the arc of The Space Race of 1869, with promises of space and perhaps the fate of Claire.
The art of the graphic novel is amazing, mostly in part to the use of watercolour to create beautiful scenery and characters that feel almost like the Disney hand-drawn backgrounds and characters of the past. The use of watercolour was truly a fantastic choice as the bright tones and style can appeal to adults and children alike and may also appeal to those adults that reminisce about the fairy tale books of their childhood.
Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 is available now, and look out for the sequel this fall.