And with time running out, it might not just be the knowledge in the Impossible Places that is lost for ever - Suzy and Wilmot could be too.
Reviewed by Ellie Labbett
Having previously battled a robot and saved Trollville, Bell’s final instalment of A Train to Impossible Places series begins without hesitation. We are plunged straight back into the action when the Postal Express screeches into Suzy’s kitchen, to embark upon a perilous delivery that will require more than the average navigation skills. An ancient book borrowed from the lost city of Hydroborea is overdue and has begun absorbing every word across the Impossible Places. Cranky and slightly smug, The Book of Power delights in giving one ultimatum: find a way to return it within the day, or lose every word within the Impossible Places forever. It is up to Suzy and the Postal Express team to locate Hydroborea or risk sacrificing society as they know it. But how can they even begin to find a world that no one has seen for thousands of years? Delivery to the Lost City is a dizzying adventure of high stakes and filled with constant surprise.
Bell deserves a mountain of praise for his ability to bring a fantasy world to life with such precision and flair. Upon arrival in Hydroborea, small details contribute towards a fantastic sense of place and history. From the flaking paintwork to the empty windows, his careful observations of the crumbling suburbs conjure a city seemingly falling apart, setting the ominous mood and a niggling feeling that something is amiss. With Suzy and Wilmot later discovering that the city is ruled over by a dictator, Bell’s narrative offers valuable opportunities for children to deconstruct how authors use settings as a plot device. In this case, as a form of foreshadowing the plot and to reflect the diminishing spirit of society.
Just the right balance is struck between challenging themes and the fun and thrill of a good adventure. The events that unfurl provide a lens into the impact of the misuse of power, isolation and deliberate spread of misinformation. The message that resurfaces throughout this text is that the freedom to access knowledge is the foundation of a democratic society and something that should be cherished. Whilst there are these more serious themes, Delivery to The Lost City is in no way a heavy read. The characters onboard the Postal Express are a breath of fresh air, endearingly imperfect and the camaraderie between each of them envelops you in warmth from the get-go. I am sure that every reader will summon up some courage with Suzy and Wilmot by their side.
This finale of the Train to Impossible Places Adventure series is a triumph and an exhilarating read for children aged 8 and up. With magic, trolls and plenty of challenging vocabulary to stretch readers, Delivery to The Lost City is an excellent book to sit pride of place in the class library.