Archie Dent is convinced that he and his friends Hachi and Fergus are the first three members of a new League of Seven: a group of heroes who come together to fight the Mangleborn whenever the monsters arise to destroy humanity. His belief is put to the test when they are forced to undertake separate missions. Archie and his faithful Tik-Tok servant Mr. Rivets pursue a shapeshifting girl who has stolen the Dragon Lantern, an ancient artifact with mysterious powers. And Hachi and Fergus travel to New Orleans to find Madame Blavatsky, the only person who knows the circumstances surrounding the death of Hachi’s father. In the course of their adventures the three heroes meet potential candidates to join their League. At the same time, they learn deep-rooted secrets that could destroy the League forever...
The Dragon Lantern, the second book in the A League of Seven series by Alan Gratz is a steampunk adventure for young readers that adults may liken to League of Extraordinary Gentleman. The book is illustrated by Brett Helquist, and the chapter heading images both highlight events in story while not spoiling readers for what’s to come next.
The tale picks up where the last book left off with Archie Dent unsure of whether being one of the League of Seven is as easy as he’s been told. Archie, Fergus and Hachi have come together in order to fight the Mangleborn, monsters who humanity is fighting again, and things have gone a bit sideways at this point. They don’t see much of an improvement when the three heroes are obliged to take on separate missions. That puts Archie and his Tik-Tok servant Mr. Rivets on the trail of a shapeshifting girl who has stolen an ancient artifact called the Dragon Lantern, and while the group aren’t sure what it does, they are told its powers have something to do with Archie’s indestructibility. In the meantime, Hachi and Fergus must travel to New Orleans in search of Madame Blavatsky who may be the only person with information about the death of Hachi’s father.
Dragon Lantern blends history and alternate paths it might have taken with the addition of large steam-powered machines, some of which are attempting to gain their freedom, such as Jesse James. Along their journey, Archie and the others meet people who help or hinder their quest and at the same time could be potential members of the League of Seven, among them General Custer, and Sings-in-the-Night, who was a victim of experimentation with the lantern and now has wings.
With the group split up, the action is also divided between the different plotlines, and some readers may not enjoy that aspect of it as much, however it’s a genre standard to separate protagonists in order to advance the story and raise the stakes. Young readers who like history, robots, and other things steampunk will enjoy a different take on the world, and adults will enjoy the story, creative retelling of events, and the fact that many nursery rhymes are actually codes which unlock puzzle traps and reveal the location of powerful artifacts.