Thirteen-year-old Kit West is accosted at the market by a man with a clockwork hand that gives him a map. Kit's father disappeared three years ago and he is living alone with his fourteen-year-old older brother, Zander, and ten-year-old sister, M.K. Kit is an expert cartographer, taught by his father while Zander is a fearless adventurer that knows more about animals than is normal for a someone his age. M.K. is a mechanic that is more aggressive than her brothers. She can sense danger and acts quickly or brashly. She swears and sounds like a kid that has lived too long on the streets without adult supervision. You don't usually see swearing in a middle grade book, but it seems to work with M.K. Life hasn't been easy for her and she's a tough hammer that stands up for the group like a German Shepherd dog protecting its territory which just so happens to be her brothers. She might be the youngest of the trio, but she's the one that bludgeons the agents that come to their house when they threaten to take Kit's mysterious map. She can take down a lion and rescues her brothers several times on their adventures. When Kit determines what the map is, the three take off on an adventure that has them fighting for their lives against others in a race to find a lost treasure.
The name of their parrot is "Pucci," a shortened version of Explorer Amerigo Vespucci, but also sounds like the pet endearment "poochie." However this is no sweet "poochie" of a parrot with its deadly metal legs and talons that were once used to drop bombs on enemies. Not that the parrot is used for that anymore. Zander rescued it from a cat that was making a meal out of it and nursed it back to health. It's high intelligence and ability to fly helps the Expeditioners out of some tight spots. Along with Sukey, an expert pilot and independent thinker. She becomes embroiled in the West siblings adventure when she helps them find some answers. She also rescues the boys a few times as well. I appreciate authors that go against stereotypes and create strong females.
Steampunk tends to lean toward the unbelievable and it is a fine line the author walks when making the story plausible. S.S. Taylor not only does it well, but weaves cartography and government attitudes of colonialism creating a futuristic world full of possibilities. Having just read "Mortal Engines," by Philip Reeve, I can't help but see similarities between the two in terms of political groups that believe in preserving the environment versus those that feel they have the right to take anything they want whether that means relocating natives, exploiting natural resources, or silencing opponents. The Expeditioners must decide between fame and preservation. Doing the right thing can get murky when lots of money is involved. Power is shown to corrupt government leaders making their decisions based on self-interest and money versus human impact.
The world building shows how the people in power making all the decisions oppress the majority of the populace that is starving and running out of water. One of the villains has an action at the end that shows he is not completely bad. Either he has a guilty conscience or he wants to keep a close eye on the West children. It teases the reader into wanting to get the next book to see what happens. Don't miss this treasure hunt.