City Of Secrets: Secret Of The Switchboard by Victoria Ying
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: July 28, 2020
Summary: Ever Barnes is a shy orphan guarding a secret in an amazing puzzle box of a building.
Most of the young women who work at the building’s Switchboard Operating Facility, which connects the whole city of Oskar, look the other way as Ever roams around in the shadows. But one of them, Lisa, keeps an eye on the boy. So does the head of the Switchboard, Madame Alexander . . . a rather sharp eye.
Enter Hannah, the spunky daughter of the building’s owner. She thinks Ever needs a friend, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
Good thing she does!
Lisa and Madame Alexander are each clearly up to something.
Ever is beset by a menacing band of rogues looking to unlock the secret he holds–at any cost. And whatever is hidden deep in the Switchboard building will determine all of their futures.
On a journey that twists and turns as much as the mechanical building Ever Barnes calls home, he and his new friend Hannah have to – and out what’s really going on in this mysterious city of secrets . . . or else!
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: City Of Secrets is a wondrous graphic novel set in an immersive steampunk world! The story follows a shy orphan and upper-class girl who embark on an adventure to uncover the secrets of a notable facility! Colorful, cinematic artwork, alongside friendship, adventure, and a page-turning story bring this graphic novel to life!
What first drew me to City Of Secrets was the magnificent artwork! Ying’s unique style brings a depth and immersion to the steampunk city of Oskar that enthralls you with each panel. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the author expands on the world, story, and cast of characters after the amount explored in this first installment!
From the very first page, the artwork transports you to this fascinating steampunk world and more importantly, the renowned Switchboard Operating Facility where many young women work, run by the strict Madame Alexander. Ever Barnes, an orphan who lives in the shadows of this building, remains quite elusive to many, but a worker by the name of Lisa helps him out by leaving food.
Ever not only manages levers and mechanisms behind the scenes, but also protects a mysterious safe hidden within the buildings depths. Hannah Morgan, the daughter of the building’s owner, is prone to adventure! Right away she’s fascinated by the intriguing building and learning more about Ever!
Though Ever’s hesitant at first, the two slowly build a lovely friendship. One of my many favorite parts about this book was seeing how it develops over the course of the story.
When we uncover secrets about Ever’s past, including his father and what led him to look after the facility, the story introduces a mysterious guild of assassins who’re not only trying to get rid of Ever, but also uncover the building’s secrets!
What follows is a plot steeped in mystery, conspiracy, and your left shrouded in uncertainty as to what could possible be inside the facility’s safe!
The cast of characters in this graphic novel were all so great! You sense that pain and loneliness Ever feels after the death of his father, mixed with knowing he really has no other option, but to follow his father’s footsteps and protect the switchboard’s secrets at any cost, despite the danger he faces at countless moments.
Hannah’s spunky and curious nature inspires her to figure out who Ever is and learn more about the switchboard building! Despite her mother’s insistence she not ignore her lady-like responsibilities, Hannah never lets anything get in the way of her exploration and sense of adventure!
The world building in City Of Secrets feels expansive, entrenched in politics, intrigue and wonder! The city of Oskar is wavering on the edge of war with neighboring city of Edmonda. Although its very much an underlying plot point, the way Ying builds the layers to that particular storyline is very interesting and I’m interested in seeing more of what’ll happen with these cities and our main cast in the next book! The city is divided by levels all powered by mechanisms, gears, and all those little details really make the steampunk elements such a vital part of the world!
Now for the artwork– where to begin? Its magnificent and almost cinematic with how quickly the pages fly by! The use of warm, almost a cozy fall color palette bring a sense of wonder as you immerse yourself in this elaborate steampunk setting! The backgrounds, character designs, facial expressions, and overall atmosphere make it feel like your reading an animated film! Although for me at points it did feel like the paneling cut a bit too quickly between scenes (because there’s a lot of action), each page was a work of art. Ying’s style brings a lively and captivating energy to the story and it will not disappoint!
This is just such a fun story that layers in the theme of friendship, conspiracy, and above all ADVENTURE! If you like ensemble casts, this is a perfect read because there’s always something new your learning about these characters. There’s a nice mix of political intrigue, some dark moments, but overall it has such a light-hearted feel to it that you will sense that uplifting, comforting, adventurous spirit!
My only issues which made me lean towards 4 stars, although this graphic novel is easily one of my new favorites, was the rushed pacing of this story despite it being over 200 pages. Particular scenes or panels would transition swiftly and there were moments I had to reread it to double check what had happened. But again, that’s also its strength because at every moment you just want to keep reading to know where the story’s headed. I also feel like for me personally, the ending kind of caught me off guard because it was rather rushed. While I definitely love the unique way Ying builds towards it and wraps everything up, it felt like it was just a very sudden twist!
However, I will say the more I let the wonder of this book simmer, I really do appreciate the surprises at the end. While the ending is kind of abrupt and rushes with those last 30-ish pages, overall I’m happy with how nicely plot threads wrap up! (I also feel like the more I reflect on this book, my rating will probably increase in the future).
The sequel is definitely going onto my TBR because this book was just so magical and whimsical! The story really connected with me and I adored the sense of adventure + very wholesome friendship between Ever and Hannah! I loved their dynamic a lot and can’t wait to see where their next adventure is headed! 💖🗝✨
City Of Secrets is an absolutely charming graphic novel set in an immersive steampunk world! As Ever and Hannah team up to solve a conspiracy, they embark on an adventure of epic proportions! The enchanting art and story, fuses with intrigue, even mystery to deliver a delightful read start to finish! You’ll adore Ying’s cast of characters, unique story, and world, eager to see what’s next!