The Boxcar Baby is quite a nice mixture of dystopian literature, Steampunk, mystery and alternate history, fused together by the words as created by an engaging storyteller as Mulvihill. AB'Gale Steel lives with her Papa, Bishop Steel, and her Granny at a small farm in complete bliss. However, when Bishop fails to return after his latest venture to the city of New Joplan, it's up to his feisty teenage daughter to find him, no matter the cost. Although the story sounds quite simple, Mulvihill has added defined workinhouse cruelty, trolls that eat children, hobo jungles, steam powered carriages and a spyglass with a rolled up map, making for one heck of a series that I know will only get better and better with each book.
I do want to say that the character of AB'Gale is one that I want to watch grow and adapt to her surroundings under the watchful eye of the System; she is not a simpering and whiny teenager but rather a young woman who has a good head on her shoulders and is not afraid to say (and do) what is on her mind. Although she does show fear at times, she does not show cowardice. She uses her head and does not allow anything to detract her from locating her Papa. Even in her dystopian Steampunk world, AB'Gale is a heroine to be respected.
I could definitely tell that Mulvihill had done her research when it came to the workinhouse; the details regarding the crummy food, the sleeping and bathing quarters and even the treatment of the young girls by the matrons was realistic and well written. Child labour is a part of the System and Mulvihill makes sure that the readers understand that their life is not idealistic. The workinhouses lend to the overall bleakness of this alternate America that is ruled with a steam powered fist. The Boxcar Baby makes for an excellent introduction into dystopian and Steampunk reading for the novice, as well as an overall amazing read for someone who wants to lose themselves in a different world, no matter the grittiness of it.
Click on the Seventh Star Press link for ordering information - you will not be disappointed!