Gideon Smith And The Brass Dragon by David Barnett (book review).

The story of ‘Gideon Smith And The Brass Dragon’ begins with an expedition to find a lost world of prehistoric creatures including such as pteranodons, triceratops and the deadly tyrannosaurus rex. There, Smith is to rescue Charles Darwin and other members of the ill-fated expedition of the Beagle II. The men have been shipwrecked on this lost world, a most inhospitable island, for the past six months. Darwin is now in his eighties and being kept alive by a mechanical contraption created by Dr. Hermann Einstein.


The formerly Lost World was hidden from the outside world by the high walls of an extinct volcano which Gideon’s ship, the Lady Jane, had to blow a hole through to get to Darwin and the only other survivor of the expedition, Stanley Rubicon. This was not without difficulty, as Stanford did not want to leave such an island empty-handed, so Stanford smuggled a tyrannosaur egg aboard in his shoulder bag, with the intention of hatching it once back in London and then becoming famous.

No sooner had this mission been accomplished and Darwin and Stanford returned to their respective homes in London and Smith and Bent back at their home to rest did Walsingham arrive to request Smith go on another mission. This time to Texas, to rescue Maria and retrieve the Brass Dragon that Cockayne had stolen and plans to sell to the highest bidder. This will be a very dangerous and difficult mission for Smith. As the highest bidder is likely to be Thadeus Pinch, self-proclaimed ruler of San Antonio, a lawless border town, known locally as Steam Town.

Cockayne’s plans do not go well. The Brass Dragon crash-lands in the desert, Cockayne is knocked unconscious and when he awakes, finds himself in Steam Town’s local jail. Thadeus Pinch is very angry as he cannot get the Dragon to work. Maria has stolen some of the control devices and disappeared, so Cockayne cannot get the machine to work neither. At first, Pinch thinks Cocayne is holding out for more money, so a beating is all Cockayne gets, before being slung back into the jail cell.

When Gideon Smith, Bent and their local guide, Jeb Hart, arrive under cover on horseback in San Antonio, they find Pinch’s men guarding the Dragon in the town square, no sign of Maria, Cockayne badly beaten up in jail and their cover blown, thanks to Pinch being an avid reader of ‘World Marvels And Wonders’.

You will have to buy the book to find out how all the different plot threads come together, about Pinch and his men, all the steam-powered machines and of how Smith and his friends manage to get out of Steam Town alive. A rollicking good yarn that keeps you guessing right to the end, with all the plot threads woven together like a master tapestry weaver. All put together seamlessly and no dropped threads.

This was a fascinating story with so much going on, so many different characters and plot threads woven through the story. I could be biased, but to me, the story is written in a very optimistic way. Gideon and his friends may bicker but they work together. A book that you can’t put down, you just have to keep turning page after page, to see what happens next. I only hope Barnett enjoys writing these stores half as much as I enjoy reading them. It all comes across as a believable alternate reality

I am now waiting eagerly and impatiently for book three

Jill Roberts

April 2015

(pub: TOR/Forge. 352 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $15.99 (US). $18.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3425-1)

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