Review copy provided by Starscape.
I feel a little conflicted about this book.
On the one hand, it’s a reasonably fun children’s book, with First Nations cultures all over North America, multicultural alliances, clockwork toys that are trained to do amazing things, and all sorts of rushing about in trains and airships.
On the other hand, the prose is pretty jerky in parts, and what the titular League of Seven is protecting the world from, explicitly right there on the page…
Every age, seven heroes arise to protect the world from the forces of lektricity, including a leader and a strong man and…yeah. They protect the world from the swarming evils of science, represented by the Hive Queen.
So despite Hachi, who is a pretty cool First Nations girl character who “kicks brass” (sigh, kids’ books) and has these little clockwork toys that help her and is fierce and fun, I…well, I am the swarming evils of science, folks. That’d be me. (Bzzz.) So I read this book all the way through, going, “But he’s going to notice that Fergus the tinkerer is actually a proto-scientist, right? We’re going to undermine this ‘protected from science’ and have Mr. Rivets the clockwork man notice that he runs on science?” Except that we don’t know that he does. He might well run on magic. And while Tesla appears on the good side, sort of, he’s, well, about as sane as you’d expect Tesla to be, and Edison is far less sane than you’d expect Edison to be (even if you’d just read a bio of Edison), cacklingly hand-rubbingly cat-strokingly evil.
And then the revelations about Our Hero’s True Nature and his family…were not what I would call deftly handled. So as much as I want to like Hachi…as much as I want Gratz to overcome a lot of the stuff he’s dipped this book in…kind of ew, honestly. Ew. The swarming evils of science are going to swarm somewhere else now. Bzz. Ew.