The League of Seven by Alan Gratz

The League of Seven is an imaginative mid school read featuring a wild steampunk world full of menacing monsters and soaring steamships. But oddly passive main characters rarely rise to meet the challenge of the worldbuilding and the horror is fairly disturbing.

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In an alternate universe 1875 America, Archie Dent is the son of heroic parents: members of the Septemberist Society who have historically protected the Earth from the monstrous creatures known as Mangleborn. Although they have been suppressed for centuries, the mangleborn have found a new conduit back into the human world: electricity. The time has come for a New League of Seven: the heroes with unique abilities to appear when the world needs them most. Archie Dent always dreamed of being the leader of the League of Seven: fate may have arranged that he will assume that role and find the remaining six.

About half way through this novel, I realized I just wasn’t enjoying the story.  Despite the very creative reimagining of the 1875 world, I didn’t get into Archie or the other characters. Gratz is a good enough author that he would take a very passive child and transform him through adversity into a hero.  But that transformation was taking far too long and I had a hard time rooting for or understanding the character. Odd plot choices abounded – each one making Archie more of a unappealing, timid, crybaby than heroic. He falls asleep in great danger, doesn’t run or fight but goes along with the flow, cries and shuts down with adversity, and seems more like a seven year old than pre-tween. Perhaps that was more realistic when a child is confronted with horror situations – but then again, I don’t want realism in a fantastical steampunk world. And in other situations, the reactions were so odd and unrealistic that the lack of consistency kept throwing me out of the novel.

So for me, I was fascinated when the world was described; disengaged when the story turned to Archie Dent. The horror aspects were disturbing and a bit much for me as well. This is a book that I can see many enjoying; I just didn’t like the characters, felt there were some odd plot choices, and felt there was perhaps too much going on overshadowing the characters.

Reviewed from an ARC.

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