I’m working hard to get as many book reviews up as I can before ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part is released on April first. I made the silly mistake of not writing a book review just after I finished reading a book yet before I started reading a new book. Lesson learned, so I’m re-reading several novels that I read over the past month. I will be adding a book review for each here and on Goodreads.
I’m starting my book review blitz with Along Came a Wolf, the first book in Adam Dreece’s emergent steampunk juvenile fiction series: The Yellow Hoods. My book review of the second novel in the Yellow Hoods series, Breadcrumb Trail, will follow this review. The third book in the series, All the King’s Men, is due for release on April fifteenth of this year.
I have to confess that when I started reading the Yellow Hoods series, I was unsure precisely what emergent steampunk meant. As a fiction genre, emergent steampunk is set on the verge of a technological jump to the steampunk era. As Adam Dreece writes:
“Steampunk is a genre usually associated with Jules Verne. It takes a historical period, generally the Victorian era, and adds technologies such as air ships, steam computers or other inventions, as a result the advent of the steam engine.”
Steampunk and emergent steampunk are appealing science fiction sub-genres. Because Jules Verne is considered a master of science fiction and because steampunk is based on his science fiction, I consider both of these genres to be part of science fiction. Both genres are concerned with technological futures which could have been. To me, that’s the essence of science fiction.
Author Adam Dreece adds an unexpected layer to the genre by incorporating themes from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. With his clever and humorous storytelling fueling this genre mash-up, I believe Mr. Dreece blends these two disparate genres quite successfully.
Along Came a Wolf follows twelve-year-old Tee “LaLa” Baker and her friends, twelve-year-old Elly and thirteen-year-old Richy. Together, they are the Yellow Hoods in this seminal novel of the series. Tee’s maternal grandfather is Nikolas Klaus–a charming blend of childhood icon Santa Claus and inventor Nikola Tesla. On the way to deliver a red box to her grandfather, Tee discovers three local brothers robbing a man on horseback. Tee rescues the man, Andre LeLoup, from the Cochon brothers. She and Andre LeLoup part ways, and she travels to her grandfather Nikolas’s home. LeLoup shows up at Nikolas Klaus’s home while Tee is there. He threatens both then delivers a letter to Nikolas. So begins a mystery to be solved by the three friends known as the Yellow Hoods, named for the hooded cloaks they wear.
As the first novel in the Yellow Hoods series, Along Comes a Wolf is a great introduction to Adam Dreece’s fictional world. The characters are rich and vibrant, and the mystery which drives the plot is exciting. Despite the peril faced by the characters, Dreece’s adventure-loaded story is balanced with levity and silliness. The characters and emergent technology evolve with the plot, and the novel delivers a tantalizing glimpse of what is to come in the series.
Unfortunately, the story flow gets broken up by regular flashbacks. While Dreece segues his flashbacks well, it can make the narrative confusing and even jarring at times. The narrator is omniscient, so the reader is moved between characters and their internal narratives as the story develops. Quite a lot of backstory is introduced through characters’ internal conflict and flashbacks. However, the flashbacks and the internal narratives develop a richness and depth to the characters who populate Adam Dreece’s world. My second read of Along Came a Wolf cleared up a lot of the confusion I had after my first read of the novel.
The first book in the Yellow Hoods series is a novel for smart eight-to-twelve-year-olds–based on the protagonists’ ages and my personal experience that kids prefer to read about characters a little older than they are. Though some juvenile and young adult fiction purists may say the language is too advanced for kids that age, I disagree. The first full-length novel I read was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and I read that at eight years old. Author Adam Dreece’s delightful tale is a rollicking ride on a sail-cart through his wonderful world, which cleverly combines nursery rhymes and steam engines. Along Came a Wolf is a grand adventure to read aloud as a family or for tween-aged readers to read for themselves.
Along Came a Wolf earns four, five-toothed brass gears from me.