Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: The Brimstone Key (Grey Griffins - Clockwork Chronicles Book 1)

Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles #1: The Brimstone Key

The Brimstone Key, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, June 2010
Authors: Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis

As I have mentioned before, there are so many wonderful books for children that I don't bother to review books here that I can't recommend. That said, there are some I recommend enthusiastically, and some that I have more trouble with.

The Brimstone Key is the first book in a new middle-grade, steampunk-inspired series about the Grey Griffins, Max, Harley, Natalia and Ernie, with a bonus almost-Griffin, Brooke. These are no ordinary kids. Even in elementary school, they have faced monsters and werewolves and demons of one sort an another, and each has some extraordinary ability. Now, they are off to middle school at Iron Bridge Academy, a school with more than a passing resemblance to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter books.

At school, things go quickly wrong as changelings like Ernie start to disappear. The Griffins are embroiled in something big, bad and dangerous that seems connected to an adventure they had before getting to the school where they first saw a reference to the Clockwork King.

There are many creative ideas that show up in fits and starts throughout the book, but the inspirations seem to be video games and role-playing cards, as well as derivative ideas from other books, especially the Harry Potter books. The heroes are conveniently given powers or ideas or clues at the exact right moment, so what appear to be insurmountable obstacles are overcome much too easily. The pacing is also that of a video game with a whole series of dangerous situations that get resolved and lead to the next series of dangerous situations.

If the only competition this book had was far better books such as those I have been highlighting on Marvelous Middle Grade Mondays, I would not recommend it. In reality, the competition is also those same video games and role-playing cards. I used to cringe as my older son devoured Goosebumps books by the dozen, reading and re-reading them, but these sorts of books fill a need as well.

This isn't great literature, but it will appeal to many reluctant readers, and to those who have grown up with video games and television shows that also offer heart-stopping dilemmas that are resolved all too conveniently.

Three stars out of five.

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