Book Title & Alexandra's Review

The Silver Arrow & The Golden Swift by Lev Grossman

4th Grade and Up

The Silver Arrow (The Silver Arrow #1)

Kate and her younger brother Tom lead dull, uninteresting lives. And if their dull, uninteresting parents are anything to go by, they don’t have much to look forward to. Why can’t Kate have thrilling adventures and save the world the way people do in books? Even her 11th birthday is shaping up to be mundane. That is, until her mysterious and highly irresponsible Uncle Herbert, whom she’s never even met before, surprises her with the most unexpected, exhilarating, inappropriate birthday present of all time: a colossal steam locomotive called the Silver Arrow.
Kate and Tom’s parents want to send it right back where it came from. But Kate and Tom have other ideas, and so does the Silver Arrow. Soon, they’re off to distant lands along magical rail lines in the company of an assortment of exotic animals who, it turns out, can talk. With only curiosity, excitement, their resourcefulness, and the thrill of the unknown to guide them, Kate and Tom are on the adventure of a lifetime. And who knows? They just might end up saving the world after all.


I LOVE THIS STORY! Nothing like a good train adventure! Now I really want to go on a train ride.


The story follows the classic ‘Hero’s Journey’ template, where the main protagonist, Kate, leads a dull, uneventful life and jumps at the opportunity to go on an adventure. But Kate soon learns that adventures aren’t all fun and games. It’s hard work.


For a fantasy adventure story, it has a heavy environmental message. Basically, the animals riding the train are a metaphor for animals traveling for migration and being pushed out of their habitat by humans. My favorite point made is that humans have caused a lot of problems on Earth, but we also have the ability to fix them.

“If you want to fix this problem, you will, because when human beings want something, nothing gets in their way.”


I want to take a moment to say that this story mentions one of my favorite sayings, “Sometimes it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.” This is a concept most of the characters in the stories I read seem to follow. And it’s true, too. It is much easier to do the thing and face the consequences later than to waste time asking permission when you know the answer will be no. I’m not suggesting that kids should do this. Results may vary.


The Golden Swift (The Silver Arrow #2)

A lot has changed for Kate in a year. She and Tom are now full-fledged conductors of the steam-powered, animal-saving, ridiculously magical Great Secret Intercontinental Railway.

But having a secret identity isn’t always as easy as it looks. Kate’s uncle Herbert has gone missing, and the climate crisis isn’t getting any better. More and more animals seem to need help.

So Kate goes rogue. With a cassowary and a wolverine for companions, she takes the Silver Arrow out on an unsanctioned mission to find Uncle Herbert and restore balance to the world. But she quickly discovers that she’s not alone out there. A mysterious train called the Golden Swift is riding the rails, too, with an agenda of its own. Is it a friend or foe?


Poor Kate is getting discouraged. No matter how hard she works and how many animals she helps, the world doesn’t seem to be getting any better.


Humans have already caused so much damage to the environment. We are trying to fix the damage we have done, but are we just making things worse? Would it be better if we left nature alone? If humans backed off, would nature fix itself? There aren’t any simple answers to any of these questions.


On a brighter note, there is a scene where the kids are picking out train cars, which I absolutely love. There are so many different and strange train cars to choose from. It reminded me of Infinity Train, but much more wholesome.


I recommend this series to fans of trains and animal/environmental adventures. I hope Lev Grossman will write a third book. There are still plenty of animals out there who need saving.


Well, that’s it for 2023! I will be taking 2024 off from posting book reviews to regroup and rebuild my stock of book reviews and concentrate on my Maddie and Albert book series. Hopefully, I’ll be back in 2025.

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