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Gratz works an unusual twist into the familiar teens-saving-the-Earth-from-
Said twist adds major complications as this opener brings together the first three of seven young team members, each specifically typecast, destined to battle the Mangleborn—huge, unkillable monsters that previous Leagues of Seven have tackled at regular intervals down the ages. In an alternate 1875, a giant statue of Hiawatha stands in the harbor of the United Nations’ (rather than States’) New Rome, and technology is based on clockworks rather than electricity. An attack on his librarian parents and the secret Septemberist Society to which they belong leads 12-year-old Archie, his wind-up sidekick, Mr. Rivets, and two capable new friends into a desperate scramble to keep the insectile Mangleborn Swarm Queen from escaping her subterranean prison in Florida. Archie’s discovery that, like his doomed predecessors Heracles and Cú Chullainn, his special powers come with a dark side leaves him (not to mention his fellow League members) profoundly disturbed at the close. (Helquist’s illustrations not seen at time of review.)
Action, banter and steampunk-style tech aplenty—plus truly icky foes inspired, the author acknowledges, by the creations of H.P. Lovecraft—make this an appealingly fast-paced trilogy opener.
– Kirkus Reviews
This hybrid of steampunk and alternate American history features a hell-raising girl’s school, Atlantis, and three highly likable leads in a yarn rip-roaring from start to finish. It’s 1875, and Archie Dent is the son of Septemberists, members of a secret society who protect humanity from the Mangleborn. There is a cyclical nature to their work: the Septemberists subdue the Mangleborn and lock them beneath the earth, but the Mangleborn eventually rise again. When Archie’s parents are brainwashed by a new Mangleborn threat, he sets out to recruit a League of Seven, the legendary combination of a Tinker, a Lawbringer, a Scientist, a Trickster, a Warrior, a Shadow, and a Hero. The first two are Fergus, a mechanic in a kilt, rescued from a maniacal Thomas Edison, and Hachi, a Native American girl who wants to assassinate Edison. Moments of humor and pathos enliven the history and fantasy. Though the main plot concerning Archie’s parents is resolved, there is plenty to address and discover in a sequel.
– Kara Dean
This book is totally “brass”! That’s League of Seven steampunk slang for cool, awesome, exciting, and terrific. Archie Dent lives in an alternate 1875 America, a United Nations of cooperation between Yankees and 6 tribes of Native Americans in the Iroquois Confederacy. In Archie’s world, Cherokee and Muskogee Indians are as commonplace as Latinos and African-Americans in ours; in Archie’s world, all boats are submarines, flying is done in steam-powered airships, and electricity is a forgotten, forbidden evil. Archie’s parents are members of a secret society that has the important mission of keeping an eye out for the escape and return of giant scary Mangleborn monsters that want to enslave all of humanity. And this action-packed story begins with some serious action, as Archie’s parents become controlled by a Manglespawn–smaller but no less nasty creatures– and it’s up to Archie and his clockwork Machine Man companion/guardian Mr. Rivets to try to rescue them, while fighting for their very lives! Along the way, Archie will team up with the highly skilled girl warrior Hachi and a funny mechanical genius named Fergus, and encounter more sinister monsters, alternate versions of historical figures we know such as Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla, and even tangle with a mecha-ninja. Will Archie be able to stop the evil Mangleborn from taking over? Or is mankind doomed to failure? Is this the moment when a new League of Seven, legendary figures who alone can defeat the Mangleborn, is being formed? Find out by reading The League of Seven!
I just adored this book. The steampunk setting is cool and cleverly described; loved the pneumatic mail system (an ‘inter-net’ of tubes! Ha!) and other nods to modern tech done in steampunk style, everything in brass or leather, the clever alternate history of not only the USA but also Europe and other countries thrown in for good measure. Excellent world building without dragging down the story. Frequent sprinkling in of Latin and other languages, and some clues to solve, and terrific characters who grow throughout the book as they learn their own strengths and/or embrace their pasts. Funny dialogue and witty comebacks, too! And the Machine Men (clockwork robots, basically) are really nifty. Great book to share with Percy Jackson fans or fans of Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and other steampunk stories, but also anyone who loves a rollicking good story. I read an ARC of this book and I can’t wait to share it with several young readers.
– Christina Getrost, Teen Librarian
Stow/Munroe Falls, OH Public Library
Archie Dent’s parents, who are researchers for the secretive Septemberist Society in a steampunk 1875 America, have just discovered that one of the monstrous immortal Mangleborn, imprisoned centuries earlier, is about to rise again. Legends say that seven heroes will emerge to defeat the monsters, so 12-year-old Archie isn’t worried—until a Mangleborn called the Swarm Queen takes control of his parents’ brains. To save them, Archie teams up with Hachi, a Seminole girl with excellent fighting skills and a dark past, and Fergus, a young inventor scarred by his experiments with electricity. The formation of the League requires a strong ensemble cast, and Gratz (Prisoner B-3087) delivers admirably in this first installment in a planned trilogy, even with only three of its members yet introduced. An enticing alternate history presents an America in which Native tribes have as much power and presence as Yankees, with politics of their own to navigate. Gratz has created an imaginative world with appeal far beyond its immediate middle-grade market.
– Publishers Weekly
Only three of the Seven Leaguers have gotten together to battle Thomas Edison and the monstrous Mangleborn by the end of the first entry in this fun-filled alternate history steampunk trilogy. Archie Dent (12) is the leader, the Jandal a Haad, the immortal, Made of Stone and The Shadow; Fergus with his power over electricity is the Tinker and maker; Hachi, a young Native American female, is the Warrior, the greatest fighter of the age. Still to come in book two: a lawbringer, a scholar, a strongman, and a trickster. Archie’s parents have been possessed and are under the control of bug-like creatures (think They Came from Outer Space). Thomas Edison is a villain in this alternate history of America who is trying to raise the Swarm Queen of the Mangleborn from her thousand year prison in Florida. Archie picks up the other two members of the League as he battles monsters, escapes and heads into battle again. Along the way he discovers that he’s not just the leader, he’s the immortal one, who can go either way, kill the other members of the League or fight with them to save the world. So far the world’s safe, but it was a really close call there at the end of book one. It should be interesting to see how the battle continues in the subsequent volumes and who the other teens are he recruits to join him in his struggle against the forces of evil. Perfect middle grade fantasy, lots of action, lots of battles, lots of icky monsters, lots of fun. I loved how this talented author combined Samurai principles with baseball in Samurai Shortstop. Now he’s turned his inventive mind to the Steampunk genre, with equal success. Fun!
– Bonnie Kunzel, Past-President of YALSA