And I thought the first book was good! The Dragon Lantern, a middle-grade novel by Alan Gratz, pulls out all the stops. Dragon Lantern is the second book in the League of Seven series, about a team of seven heroes who must defend civilization against the Mangleborn, giant monsters that have taken over half the planet. The catch? The Mangleborn feed on electricity, which is a great rationale for the alternative history steampunk setting.
Dragon Lantern included so many of my favorite things I began to lose track: Helena Blavatsky, giant monsters, mechs, robots, voodoo, airships — the list goes on. And one of the wonderful treats here for the adult reader is that Gratz fills the book with easter eggs — sly references that most children won’t pick up on. I don’t want to give too many away, but one of my favorites was a mention of the “dreamplanes of Leng” — a nod to H.P. Lovecraft’s plains of Leng, said to be accessible only in a dream dimension.
But the best thing about these books are the characters. In Dragon Lantern, we get to meet three more of the League of Seven. My favorite is Clyde, pilot of a giant steam man that thinks it’s a small dog (long story). Clyde often speaks in homilies, but he’s also an unflappable natural leader.
This entry in the series ups the ante for the entire League, and I found this book darker than the first. I can’t wait to see how Gratz is going to pull the League’s bacon out of the fire in book three!