Review Detail

Steampunk in the Wild West
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
Archie Dent is not up for an adventure right now, having found out his origins in The League of Seven and The Dragon Lantern. He'd just as soon curl up in a corner and never emerge, but Mr. Rivets isn't having it. The Mangleborn are rising again because people are using lektricity, and Philomena Moffett is using the power of the dragon lantern and must be stopped. Mr. Rivets gets Archie kidnapped on purpose so he can investigate the gang that is stealing homeless street children, and Archie meets the blind Gonzalo and his talking ray gun, Senor X. Feeling that Gonzalo is another member of the League, Archie hangs out with him, and the two manage to have a number of adventures, including finding the last member, before joining up with the others. Things are becoming very dire, and they know that Philomena must be defeated before she manages to turn the world over to the Mangleborn and the Manglespawn.
Good Points
Gratz states in his biography that he tried to include all of the elements that his younger self would have enjoyed, such as "tentacled monsters, brains in jars [and] windup robots". He does an excellent job of this, and also includes plenty of sound effects like "KerrrrrrrrWHOOM!" and "Boom. Ka-thoom. Raaaaawr. Yeaaaaaaa!" I don't know why more middle grade books don't include sound effects-- it adds a lot to the bashing of tentacled monsters.

The addition of Gonzalo, who relies on Senor X to help him navigate the world, and the enigmatic Martine are good ones, and seeing the league at work in its entirety is interesting. While there were a few moments when I thought that they would dispatch Philomena and the book would be over, and I was disappointed that she managed to somehow disappear, this certainly added to the dramatic tension and made me cheer when she was finally neutralized.

Archie's self doubt and reluctance to fight were an interesting twist, but given his origin, completely understandable. He adds depth to a novel that otherwise would have been a much simpler exercise in bashing monsters.

Readers of Westerfeld's Behemouth, Ross' The Fog Diver and Oppel's Airborn will enjoy this alternative look at 1800's America with its Steampunk machines, multicultural characters, and plenty of sound effects.
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