Take an English pirate’s daughter, a natural philosopher’s son, and a 12-year old captain of the U.S. navy, drop them into the middle of the War of 1812, and throw in a mysterious machine with the power to end all wars—if only they can sort out the cryptic clues—and you’ve got The Left-Handed Fate, Kate Milford’s new middle grades adventure story.
Lucy’s promised to help Max Ault complete his late father’s mission to solve an ancient puzzle and build the ultimate war machine. She’s not expecting it to be easy—she is a privateer’s daughter, after all—but she’s definitely not prepared for how complicated it gets when the newly minted United States declares war on Britain, mysterious figures in black start following them everywhere, French diplomats start showing their nasty side, and her beloved ship gets captured by a U.S. ship helmed by 12-year-old Oliver Dexter. Together with Lucy’s half-brother Liao (possibly my favorite character in a novel full of nuanced, favorite-able characters), they form an unlikely team with a nearly impossible mission full of action, danger, and a surprising number of explosions. If you loved the dreamy, slow-building pace of Milford’s The Greenglass House, you may be surprised by how fast-paced and action-packed The Left-Handed Fate is. (Both books do take place in the imaginary town of Nagspeake, though The Greenglass House is set two centuries after the events of the The Left-Handed Fate take place.)
The Left-Handed Fate has the deliberate old-fashioned spirit, clever children on a mission, and twisty brainteaser to solve that made The Mysterious Benedict Society such a favorite, and it’s a worthy follow-up to your Trenton Lee Stewart read-a-thon. As with the Benedict Society, the characters are the best part of this story: bold, honor-driven Kate, stalwart midshipman Oliver, brilliant Max, and dreamy, clever Liao. It would be worth reading The Left-Handed Fate just to meet them.