Thursday, July 31, 2014

The League of Seven by Alan Gratz, illustrated by Brett Helquist

Unlike most people, Archie Dent knows that monsters are real.  That's because his parents are members of the Septemberist Society who protect the world from the monstrous Mangleborns.  They are currently trapped under ground, but every thousand years or so they rise again but have always been defeated by The League of Seven, who form in the time of need.  The Mangleborn are now waking, and when Archie's parents and the rest of the society is taken over by the Mangleborn, Archie sets out to save the day, and maybe form the new League of Seven himself.

This was a great start to the series, plus it was steampunk, which I very much enjoy.  It's 1875 America, and the reason everything is run on steam is because the Mangleborn feed off electricity.  It's the Septemberist's job to make sure electricity isn't discovered, and put an end to when it is.  There was some good world building going on, most mysterious is that all contact has been lost with Europe, which might mean it's been overtaken by the Mangleborn.  That was just mentioned in passing, but I'm sure it will show up again later.  Essentially the world kind of gets remade every time the Mangleborn show up and destroy everything.

The League of Seven is always made up of seven kinds of people - a tinker (like an inventor or mechanic), a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strong man, and a hero.  Archie is convinced he is the hero of the new League of Seven, even though he can't quite figure out what his strengths are.  He meets two other kids around his age while trying to save his parents, Fergus, a young mechanic, and Hachi, a First Nations girl out for revenge.  It's after they start working together that Archie decides they're the new League of Seven, with Fergus as the tinker and Hachi as the warrior.

Various historic figures show up in the story.  We have Thomas Edison, the crazed scientist who's determined to harness electricity no matter what the cost.  There's Tesla, a paranoid recluse and member of the Septemberist Society.  There's also lots of delightful mechanical creations, I mean, it's steampunk.  So we have the ever polite Mr. Rivets, Archie's family's Tik Tok servant, who can fill a variety of roles from pilot to protector depending on which card is inserted in his back.

As the story progresses, Archie, Fergus, and Hachi begin having strange dreams, where they hear the Mangleborn speaking to them, and see Archie's parents working toward freeing one of the monsters (remember, they're brainwashed).  Archie, however, seems to have a strange connection with the monster, who keeps calling him Jandal a Haad and telling him he's made of stone.  As the group struggles to find answers, Archie learns more about the previous Leagues of Seven, and begins to worry that he's not the hero after all, he's something stranger and more dangerous.

It was a great mix of action, adventure, and even a bit of horror (what with monsters eating people).  I also like the entire League wasn't formed by the end of the book.  They may have defeated one monster, but there's plenty more where that came from.  Further members will be found in future books.

And don't you worry, steampunk fans, there are airships.  There are always airships.  There's even a battle while on an airship.  It doesn't get better than that.

The League of Seven comes out August 19, 2014.

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