The Broken Lands

illus. by Andrea Offermann. 456p. Clarion. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-73966-3; ebook $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-82266-2. LC 2011049466.
Gr 8 Up—This spine-tingling, action-packed, and emotionally powerful prequel to The Boneshaker (Clarion, 2010) can stand on its own and has much to offer discerning readers. Once upon a time, a woodsman was granted three wishes by a beautiful, uncanny woman, but he used them in a selfish, foolish way. So great were his crimes that not even the devil would let him enter into Hell. So Jack roams the world, searching for a place with a powerful crossroads. In 1877, New York City seems the perfect place to make into hell. He has sent his evil emissaries to kill or convert the five pillars of New York: five people charged with protecting the city. Fifteen-year-old orphan and cardsharp Sam Noctiluca is an unlikely hero, but when he befriends Jin, a young Chinese fireworks-maker, they are drawn into the battle. Soon they, and a ragtag cast of heroes, are the only ones who stand between New York and the supernatural forces of evil. While on the surface this is a simple tale of good versus evil, the book is richly fleshed out and overflows with folklore, Chinese alchemy, and historically accurate details. It also beautifully addresses the themes of friendship and loss and the healing power of innocent love. Offermann's delicate black-and-white illustrations contain a sense of innocence that further accentuates the contrast between Sam's group and the frightening evil that threatens the city.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

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