By Andrew Beasley, published by Usborne
Every coin has two faces. Every war has two sides. One boy must make the right choice…
Street urchin Benjamin Kingdom has always lived poorly, with his dad and brother who don’t even acknowledge him. One day, his father comes across a silver coin which could potentially get them out of poverty, but adventurous boy Ben discovers that this coin is the reason that a secret war is raging across London. Ben finds himself thrown into the midst of a battle, between the evil citizens who live in underground tunnels, and the ragtag band of watchers who stalk the London rooftops. What side will Ben choose?
Seeing this in a book magazine, I was totally captivated by the cover. It. Just. Looked. So. Awesome. As I’m getting into steampunky/fantasy fiction at the moment, I just had to buy it as soon as I saw it on a bookshop shelf… and it really lived up to my expectations. The Battles of Ben Kingdom had steampunk themes with essences of fantasy and hope. Andrew Beasley’s It was really fun to read, and although seemingly aged at children around 11, really enjoyable. I loved the setting of Victorian London, and how the battle was taking place above and below the city. It was really imaginative! At first I was torn between the two sides of the war- through Andrew Beasley’s writing I had grown to love and hate both sides. They both had strong leaders, and some really cool members. However, I was a bit disappointed how the cover ruined the truth about the leader of the Watchers. It wasn’t revealed until the end about his wings, and yet the Watcher leader is standing on the cover with them!
Benjamin Kingdom was a seriously cool protagonist. He was cocky, yet brave and intelligent. Ben was three dimensional and obviously well thought out, and his home life was pretty sad and almost brought a tear to my eye. It was really fun reading about him, and I don’t think I have ever read a book before where the protagonist starts to become evil halfway through. Yes, Ben did seem to go a bit bad, under the influence of the silver coin- named the Judas Coin, for it’s evil influences. That was such a cool twist! I also especially loved the supporting character, Ruby: a cool, quirky teenage girl from the underground. I would really like to see more of her in the sequel (OUT IN SEPTEMBER WOO-HOO)!
Overall, The Battles of Ben Kingdom was an incredibly fun read. Great for young teenage boys, and generally for YA steampunk fans. It had a solid plot, and the events were written brilliantly. There was a lot of action and adventure packed into the pages, and I can’t believe this was a debut novel! Keep on writing, Andrew, I so want to read more in this series!