Gears of Revolution
by J. Scott Savage
Recommended Ages: 11+
If you missed Book 1 of the "Mysteries of Cove" series, as I did, this book will do a pretty good job catching you up. The two strong-willed, heroic kids were the first citizens of the underground city of Discovery (a.k.a. Cove) in a 100 years to see the sky, breathe fresh air, and explore the outside world. They were brought up believing the surface world (in an alternate-history version of the early 1900s) was devastated by environmental disaster, and the conditions outside would be deadly. Well, there's air to breathe and water to drink - but with several varieties of super-predators on the wing, it's deadly all right. Kallista is still determined to press forward to follow the trail of her father, brilliant inventor Leo Babbage, who disappeared from Cove after faking his own death. But the latest clues lead them to a very different city, with different rules and attitudes that put the pair in even more danger.
The city they find happens to be Seattle, but you wouldn't recognize it. After years of hiding underground and scratching a meager existence out of whatever game they can catch at night, the people of Seattle have divided up into several factions. The ordinary citizens want to kill Kallista and Trenton outright, because they don't have enough resources to share with outsiders. The Red Robes, otherwise called the Order of the Beast, worships dragons as immortal beings and tries to appease them; if they realized Trenton and Kallista have actually killed a dragon (back in Book 1), they would totally freak. And then there are the Whipjacks, led by a "dimber damber" who controls the city's electricity and water supply; he claims to have met Babbage while he passed through, and to have shared ideas with him. But even under the Whipjacks' protection, the two Cove kids find themselves forced to work on weapons they have doubts about, and they're not sure whom they can trust.
I was sorry to have missed Book 1, Fires of Invention, before I finished reading his book. It wasn't that I couldn't understand what was going on; as I said, this book does a great job keeping late-joiners up to speed. But there are enough hints about I had missed to make me want to go back and read it. On its own merits, though, this book is a marvelous entertainment. Its main characters come alive in the imagination, and their problems touch the heart. Their adventure is thrilling, scary, and full of amazing imagery and stunning Steampunk concepts. There are conflicts and puzzles to keep you on edge, individuals and relationships that show growth, and thought-provoking lessons that go down smoothly (for example, about the harm done by a government that crushes creativity or lies to its citizens). And it leaves a dragon-sized door open for another sequel, at least.
This is my first introduction to the work of J. Scott Savage, an author who specializes in fantasy thrillers for middle-grade readers. His previous books include the four-book "Farworld" series (Water Keep, Land Keep, Air Keep, Fire Keep) and four books in the "Case File 13" series (Zombie Kid, Making the Team, Evil Twins, and Curse of the Mummy's Uncle). This review was based on a pre-publication proof on Kindle, made available through Netgalley-dot-com. The book's U.S. release is scheduled Sept. 20, 2016.