Review: The League of Seven

Posted: September 15, 2015 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Alan Gratz, Middle Grade, Steampunk

Archie Dent’s parents are members of a secret society that knows about the giant monsters who want to enslave humanity. He’s always known about the Mangleborn who were buried by past League of Seven members, aided by the Septemberist Society. The League is always seven: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strongman, and a hero. And now that the Mangleborn are attempting to escape again, a new League will form.

But all Archie knows right now is that his parents have been brainwashed by Manglespawn and in order to save them, he needs help. Along the way he meets Hachi, a Seminole girl with impressive skills with a knife; Fergus, a Yankee with an aptitude for machines; and there’s the Tik Tok machine man named Mr. Rivets, owned by Archie’s parents and tasked to keep his young charge safe.

But it’s only by working together that they can stop Edison from waking the Mangleborn buried in the swamps of Florida.

This new series by Alan Gratz (author of an eclectic group of novels), starts off with THE LEAGUE OF SEVEN (Amazon), and follows our young heroes as they begin to discover their destiny. They travel across the continent as they look for help–they are only kids after all–and eventually take matters into their own hands.

The three kids–Archie, Hachi, and Fergus–all play an important part of LEAGE. Archie has grown up knowing about Mangleborn and how important it is to stop them. This gives him an impetus to stop the one in the Florida swamp. Well, that and saving his parents. He imagines himself as the League’s leader, seeing as how he doesn’t have any other special abilities, following in the footsteps of previous heroes like Theseus of Greek fame. He can’t quite seem to convince Hachi or Fergus of their potential as members of the League. Hachi is hell-bent on revenge for her father’s death, and conveniently her goal aligns with Archie’s. Fergus’ entire world is turned upside-down by Edison and realizes that science for science’s sake isn’t enough if your boss is a madman, so of course has to join the fight to stop him.

These kids are enjoyable characters with definite personalities and drive, but since the book is plot-driven they don’t get above the initial characterization. Archie does get whiney at the end as he discovers his destiny and his potential for darker, destructive urges he doesn’t understand. This darkness may bother more sensitive children; at the same time if the characterization is done right, I’d be very interested to see where Gratz takes these kids in the sequels, and how he resolves this particular issue.

Archie Dent's parents are members of a secret society that knows about the giant monsters who want to enslave humanity in THE LEAGUE OF SEVEN.

Our young heroes live in a world where electricity is what fuels Mangleborn, and the Septemberist Society does everything it can to make sure every attempt at electricity’s discovery and use is sabotaged. As an alternate 1875 America, this world relies on steam and the book contains creative touches such as the robotic Tik Tok men, pneumatic tubes, and flying ships. I understand why the map consists of Native American tribe boundaries, as well as the inclusion of Yankees to the east; but I had a little trouble with understanding the conclusion Gratz draws with this alternate evolution of science and technology in this different world. My attempts to reconcile what I know about Native American culture and the influx of immigrants to this country remained unexplained. However, this may not bother other readers who may think this alternate reality an intriguing possibility.

Eventually Archie, Hachi, and Fergus discover that working as a team is what makes them successful. The only way they can get through their obstacles is by using all of their unique characteristics in tandem. The story moves quickly, the end is exciting, and our heroes discover important things about themselves–for good or ill. I’m already halfway through the sequel.

  • Recommended Age: 10+ but some dark themes may bother more sensitive children
  • Language: None
  • Violence: Our heroes experience peril, injuries, and witness death and horrible monsters; and poor Archie must deal with his inner demons
  • Sex: None

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