Ahhh! It’s Patrick‘s book-birthday – well, his double book-birthday, really, because as well as The Emperor of Mars coming out in hardcover today, the paperback edition of his first book, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, is out in the world now too! (So if you’ve been curious about this series but waiting for a cheaper edition, Now Is Your Moment! :) )
I love both of these books SO MUCH. The Emperor of Mars stands alone just fine – it’s a fantastically fun adventure full of girl-thieves, wildly imaginative clockwork devices, divided loyalties, wonderful families AND scary sea-serpents! so there’s no prior reading required to enjoy it – but Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is so much fun, why not just grab them both?
You can read the first chapter of each of the books on Patrick’s website, but here’s one of my favorite moments from near the end of Chapter One of The Emperor of Mars – the moment when my favorite new character is introduced:
The moons were high in the sky, wreathed in a faint mist, but still bright enough to light the cobbled street. I’d been told that Earth’s moon was much larger and brighter than either of Mars’s moons. That must be weird. I wondered if I’d ever get to see it.
I was still aching from falling into that beetle-vine cluster, and sandfish crystals had gotten into my socks and pantaloons. I glared at the moons, wondering exactly what they had to be so cheerful about.
And that was when I saw the fourth-floor window of Lady Harleston’s enormous town house shoot up and a figure dressed all in black emerge, carrying a sack over one shoulder.
I didn’t often go wandering about in Lunae City at night, but even I knew that this wasn’t usual.
A rope uncoiled and snaked down the wall to end five yards short of the ground. Then the figure swung over the ledge and scrambled down.
I had lived long enough with my little sister, Putty, to see a disaster when it was coming straight at me, and I’d learned not to hesitate.
I launched myself forward just as the figure reached the end of the rope and lost their grip. Feet crashed into my outstretched arms, the sack hit my head, and we both collapsed to the hard road with an explosion of breath. The stranger leaped up and I stumbled after, still half tangled with their arms and legs.
“Are you…?” I started, but I didn’t have time to finish.
The figure whipped away the scarf that had been tied around their face and let long, brown hair fall free. I found myself looking up into a girl’s dark eyes.
“Oh,” I said, letting go quickly and stepping back. At a guess, she was about a year older than me, but she was much taller, and I could see she was part native Martian.
She looked completely furious.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
“What do I think I’m doing?” I spluttered. “What do you think you’re doing?”
She looked at me like I was an idiot. “I’m escaping. What does it look like?”
I glanced over her shoulder at Lady Harleston’s house.
“Who are you escaping from?”
The girl gave me a pitying look. “From whoever owns this house. Obviously.”
This conversation was getting away from me. My mouth opened and closed like a hungry fish. “Were you robbing it?”
“Let’s think,” she said. “You caught me climbing out of a house on the end of a rope in the middle of the night with a bag over my shoulder. What did you think I was doing? Cleaning the windows?”
“That’s wrong,” I said, realizing how stupid I sounded. I didn’t normally get this flustered, even when arguing with Putty. But Putty didn’t make me feel sweaty and fidgety, like I was wearing a shirt made from squeezethorn fibers. I wondered if falling into the beetle-vine cluster had made me sick.
“So what are you going to do?” she said. “Report me to the militia?”
I kept catching myself staring at her, then having to look away quickly.
“You’d be arrested,” I said.
She glanced around. “Look, where are you going anyway?”
I pointed up the road with a shaky hand. “Um. To the Flame House,” I said, giving the name the locals used for our new home.
“Well, I’m going the opposite direction. You can make yourself useful and help me with the bag if you like. I can’t wait here all night.”
I gawped like a confused marsh bat. “I’m not going to help you carry stolen goods.”
“Fine, then.” She hoisted the heavy bag onto her shoulder. “If I’m caught and hanged it’ll be your fault.”
I spluttered. “My fault? I saved you! You’d have broken a leg if I hadn’t caught you.”
“Don’t be absurd. I’ve done that a thousand times.” She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. “You smell really bad. Now, good-bye!”
“It’s the beetle-vine,” I mumbled, but she’d already turned on her heel and jogged away down a nearby alley, into the concealing darkness.
I stared after her. I wanted to say, Don’t go, but I knew how ridiculous I would sound.
Almost as ridiculous as I looked standing here, mouth hanging open, as though I were trying to catch glow moths.
My head hurt.
I backed away, and my foot hit something. It skidded across the cobbles, glinting metallically. I followed, then crouched to pick it up, frowning.
It was some kind of mechanical device—but old, like something that had been pulled out of a dragon tomb. It was cylindrical, the size of my fist, and cleverly made. I peered at it. Through a dozen small holes in the side, I saw fine brass cogs and levers, and the hint of a coiled spring deep inside.
I had no idea what it was. The thief must have stolen it from Lady Harleston’s house and dropped it when we got all tangled up. The thought made me feel uncomfortably hot in my jacket again, despite the cold air.
Perhaps she would come back for it.
I dithered, peering into the alley, the device clutched in my hands.
And a hand closed tight on my shoulder. “Got you!” a voice exclaimed.
I nearly jumped out of my skin.
So many options!
I’m so proud of this book. I fell in love with Patrick’s writing (in our first week as students at the Clarion West writing workshop 16 years ago) even before I fell in love with him as a person, and this book is my favorite so far. I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of it!