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The Brimstone Key (Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles Series #1)
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The Brimstone Key (Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles Series #1)

4.5 59
by Derek Benz, J. S. Lewis

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A brand new adventure starring The Grey Griffins! Max---the leader Natalia---the brains Ernie---the changeling Harley---the muscle A year ago, the Grey Griffins were just regular kids from Avalon, Minnesota. That was before they learned about the existence of evil fairies, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. Now they are monster-hunters,


A brand new adventure starring The Grey Griffins! Max---the leader Natalia---the brains Ernie---the changeling Harley---the muscle A year ago, the Grey Griffins were just regular kids from Avalon, Minnesota. That was before they learned about the existence of evil fairies, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. Now they are monster-hunters, celebrated heroes, and allies to the legendary Templar knights---but even heroes have to go to school. When the Griffins enroll at Iron Bridge Academy, a school to train young recruits in the fight against the forces of evil, they find themselves at the center of a whole new adventure.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Lisa Martincik
Max and his three best friends, the Grey Griffins, have already helped save the world from threats including sorcery, fairies, and Max's own father, Lord Sumner. Their next challenge is adjusting to a new school, run by the Knights Templar, to educate and train them, and talented kids like them, into better monster hunters. Making new friends and rivals soon takes a backseat to the mystery of who is kidnapping faerie-blooded Changelings like Ernie. The long-absent Clockwork King is raising a malevolent robot army that threatens, not just the Iron Bridge Academy, but all the Templar and Griffins have sought to protect. Beginning the second Grey Griffins trilogy by Benz and Lewis, The Brimstone Key contains callbacks to, but requires no familiarity with, previous volumes. Each Griffin plays a role, but through writerly craft or accident they manage to exceed these roles. So Harley's brawn is overshadowed by his love of machines, Ernie's new Changeling nature allows him to geekily adopt a superhero moniker, Natalia demonstrates guts as well as brains (though, stereotypically, she is the only screamer in the group), and Max supports as much as he leads. They also take the occasional backseat to adults when danger rears its head, lending an air of plausibility to balance out some uneven lurches in storytelling. Characters are relatable and fun if not deep, and the plot moves well to an inevitable cliff-hanger. The setting will raise comparisons to a steampunk Harry Potter, but this is a brisker book, and the protagonists already have a past with actions that can and do come back to haunt them. Reviewer: Lisa Martincik
Children's Literature - Shirley Nelson
In book one of the "The Clockwork Chronicles" the Grey Griffins embark on exciting, dangerous, and magical adventure. On the last day of summer vacation, Max, Natalie, Ernie, and Harley are led to an underground room by a clockwork beetle where they find a mysterious control room, blueprints, and automaton parts, as well as a special deck of Round Table cards featuring a card for the Clockwork King. However, they have no time for research because the next day they are scheduled to begin middle school at the newly opened Iron Bridge Academy. While the Templar school appears as a boring edifice in their hometown of Avalon, Minnesota, once they pass through the doors, a new world opens for them. They find themselves in a train station filled with other students dressed in Victorian garb waiting for the Zephyr, a steam train that is actually a very fast train with a mind of its own. Once they arrive at Iron Bridge, located between worlds, new classes, new teachers, and class bullies make researching in the Templar library difficult. When changelings start disappearing, the Grey Griffins find themselves in a battle against the Clockwork King for control of the world. This plot driven adventure will appeal to young fans of Steampunk. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—The Grey Griffins are back in a new series, and they're off to Iron Bridge Academy, a Hogwarts-type school that prepares promising young students for the fight against the forces of evil. Once Max, Harley, Natalia, and Ernie arrive at the school (which has long been closed due to mysterious circumstances), the changelings there begin to vanish, and it becomes apparent that The Clockwork King is behind the disappearances. Max has been having realistic nightmares that lead him to believe that the mad scientist is horrifyingly merging students with clockwork creations. The authors have jumped on the steampunk bandwagon without really embracing the steampunk aesthetic. Yes, there are clockwork automatons, an airship, and a place called New Victoria where humans, pixies, and hobgoblins linger on the streets together, but the main characters are skeptical of those who embrace Victorian fashion. Despite some awkwardly inserted background information from the previous books, it is still difficult for someone unfamiliar with them to keep track of the various characters, their histories, and their roles. Fans of the "Grey Griffins" series will be thrilled to revisit their old friends in this action-packed adventure, but newcomers would benefit from starting with The Revenge of the Shadow King (Scholastic/Orchard, 2005).—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Aiming to be a steampunk action/adventure with a faerie element and a side of gaming, this opener of the second Grey Griffins series is a congested mess of overwritten prose, weak descriptions and inflated dangers. The four Griffins (three boys, plus one girl to ask questions, be prissy and get taken down a peg) are a monster-fighting team aided by magical and military adults. Technology and magic overflow, from Max's transformable codex/ring/gauntlet-weapon to wireless cameras and long-distance imaging, laptops, clockworks, cogs, robotics and soul-stealing. A clockwork king from the past is kidnapping faerie changelings, potentially including one Griffin and one close friend, but weapons are too easily deployed and too quickly successful for battles and victories to resonate. Gadget and scene descriptions are slapdash, Arthurian references inexplicable. Perspective shifts lazily, and ornate substitutions for "said" are distracting and often inaccurate (" ?Cheer up,' Todd noted"). Prose is purple ("She was thin, fitting into her clothes like a blade into a starched scabbard") and redundant ("a round globe"). Sloppy all around. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Product Details

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.40(d)
770L (what's this?)
Age Range:
10 - 13 Years

Read an Excerpt

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

By Benz, Derek

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2010 Benz, Derek
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316045223





Max Sumner pedaled his bike through the quiet streets of Avalon, Minnesota, trying to shake the nightmare from his head. He had been awake all night, too frightened to go back to sleep. The only thing keeping him from taking a nap was the last summer meeting of the Secret Order of the Grey Griffins. Max didn’t want to be late.

With school starting on Monday, the four friends had decided to spend their last day of summer vacation reading comic books and watching movies in their secret headquarters—a tree fort that Max decided to call the Griffins’ Aerie. Over the last year, Max, Harley Eisenstein, Natalia Romanov, and Ernie Tweeny had faced everything from leprechauns to six-armed ogres, and just about every monster in between. Their adventures had brought them closer than ever, but they were about to embark on their most intriguing quest yet—the Grey Griffins were transferring to a new school.

Iron Bridge Academy was a private military school run by the Knights Templar. The curriculum was designed to train students to combat unseen forces from the darkest of nightmares. The academy had been shut down for nearly a century, following an explosion that destroyed most of the buildings. Now the doors were opening again.

There were only two ways to be admitted into a Templar academy. The first was through birthright, which Max possessed. The Templar also chose individuals from the general populace who had extraordinary talent, intellect, and ingenuity, so Harley, Natalia, and Ernie were extended invitations as well.

By the time Max reached the Old Woods, Harley was already waiting for him.

“What are you doing?” Max asked as he set his bike down. Harley had a screwdriver in one hand. In the other, he held a palm-sized device with its electrical guts exposed.

“Just making a couple of adjustments,” Harley replied as he replaced the casing and screwed it back together. “It’s a tracking device.”

Harley handed Max a metal chip and told him to put it in his pocket. Harley then twisted a dial on his invention, and the dark screen flickered to life. Two flashing green dots instantly appeared. “That’s us.”

“What about Natalia and Ernie?”

“I gave them ID chips this morning,” Harley replied. “According to this little gizmo, they should be here right about… now.”

Max turned to find the other two members of the Grey Griffins coasting down the gravel road on their bikes. Natalia’s red hair was woven into braids that flew behind her. Ernie’s vintage World War I Army helmet bounced on his head.

“I thought you were excited about transferring to Iron Bridge,” Max heard Natalia say.

“I was, but King’s Elementary is the last normal thing in our lives,” Ernie explained. “Once we leave that behind, it’ll be nothing but a bunch of rigid rules.”

“Come on, Ernie, you know that’s not true,” Max said. “We’re going to accomplish things that we never dreamed we could do.”

“And what about all the other changelings at the academy?” Harley added. “You’ll finally be able to put together your own team of superpowered humans. It’ll be like a real-life comic book.”

“I never fit in anywhere I go,” Ernie complained. “Trust me, Iron Bridge isn’t going to be any different—changelings or not.”

Natalia sighed. “Look, Ernie. According to Brooke, we’re kind of famous.”

“Yeah, right.”

“I’m serious. Everyone at Iron Bridge thinks we’re heroes because we helped defeat the Black Wolf Society.”

Ernie smiled.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Max warned. “Brooke may be exaggerating.”

Brooke Lundgren was the only honorary member of the Grey Griffins. The boys wanted to make her membership official, but Natalia wasn’t quite ready to share the spotlight with another girl. Brooke knew that Natalia didn’t mean anything by it. A close friend had betrayed Natalia, so it wasn’t easy for her to trust other girls. Besides, Brooke had her own troubles. Her dad, Baron Cain Lundgren, had been given the directorship of Iron Bridge Academy. He had a reputation for being strict, and Brooke hoped that the other students wouldn’t hold it against her.

“I knew it was too good to be true,” Ernie sulked.

“What if I told you that my mom stocked the fridge with tons of junk food last night? Would that get your mind off school for a little while?” Max asked.

The Aerie was constructed of three separate buildings linked by suspension bridges and rope swings. It boasted air-conditioning, a cobblestone fireplace, a working kitchen, and hidden rooms with trick entrances. When the four friends reached the central building, Ernie scaled the ladder and pressed his thumb against a hidden sensor pad on the rafter. It had been installed as a safety precaution against prowling monsters. The lock on the door released with a click, and Ernie rushed straight to the refrigerator. In a matter of moments, his arms were overflowing with snacks.

“Hey, Harley, clear the table, will you?” Ernie asked as he tried to balance all the food.

“Clear it yourself,” Harley replied, sitting down to read through a stack of comic books. That’s when he saw the strange box wrapped in brown paper. It was unmarked, except for a faded Templar cross stamped on the top. “What’s in the package?”

“Maybe it’s our next assignment,” Max said. “I overheard someone talking about an infestation of Vampire Pixies.”

Natalia looked skeptical. “Since when do we get assignments in unmarked packages?”

Max shrugged as Ernie dumped the pile of food on top of the box.

“Ernest!” Natalia reprimanded. She began clearing away the snacks.

“What?” Ernie sat down and opened a bag of chips. “Did you expect me to hold that stuff forever? I have super speed, not super strength.” With that, he shoved a handful of chips into his mouth and started smacking away.

Max broke the seal and pulled out a simple wooden box. Curious, he flipped the latch and opened the lid. Inside was a red velvet sack tied with a length of golden rope. He started to untie it, but Natalia grabbed his arm.

“Wait.” She reached inside the box and pulled out a piece of paper. Written in looping script were the words WIND STEM TO FIND HIM.

“Wind the stem?” Harley read aloud. “What does that mean?”

Max opened the little sack and turned it upside down. “Let’s find out.”

An object fell into the palm of his hand. It was a brass beetle, no more than two inches long. A perfect symphony of etched brass and silver filigree, the mechanical creature sat unmoving.

“That’s so supersonic!” Ernie said, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. As the self-proclaimed “world’s first real superhero,” Ernie had decided he needed a catchphrase. So instead of describing things as awesome or amazing, he called everything supersonic.

Overwhelmed by curiosity, Ernie grabbed the beetle. With his greasy fingers, he wound the stem several revolutions. Inside, a series of gears engaged, and the beetle started tick as if it were a pocket watch. When Ernie set the beetle on the table, small brass legs unfolded. Then the mechanism spread its wings and lifted into the air.

“Whoa!” Harley stepped back as it zipped by his head while circling the room. “What is that thing?”

“Quick! Close the windows!” Max called.

Unfortunately, the mechanical creature had already spotted an open window and flown into the forest.

Max jumped over a stack of comic books and ran toward the escape slide. “Don’t let it get away, Ernie! We’ll be right behind you.”


Excerpted from Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles #1: The Brimstone Key by Benz, Derek Copyright © 2010 by Benz, Derek. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis have been best friends since diapers. They grew up sharing birthday parties, Saturday morning cartoons, comic books and baseball cards, and spent much of their childhood exploring the sprawling woodlands behind Derek's family farm, which they secretly suspected was enchanted. They are the authors of three previous books featuring The Grey Griffins: The Revenge of the Shadow King, The Rise of the Black Wolf and The Fall of the Templar.

Derek Benz currently lives with his wife and son in New Jersey.

J.S. Lewis lives with his wife and daughters in Arizona.

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The Brimstone Key (Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles Series #1) 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Natalie Arnold More than 1 year ago
I read a lot of books. It takes a lot for one book to stand out to me. But this one did. It has amazing characters. Max is the leader of the Griffins, and he's serious about it. Ernie seems shy, but he's really brave. Natalia is outgoing and confident. Harley is an amazing inventor. The book is about four kids who discovered that magical creatures exist and have saved the world. Now, they have to go to a school for kids like them. Heroes. But school is the last thing on the minds of Max, Ernie, Natalia, and Harley. A new villian has appeared and he's kidnapping kids at the school. Kids who are half-fairy. Like Ernie and his friend Robert. The Grey Griffins and their friend Brooke have to stop this villian before it's too late...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book seems like a mix of the percy jackson series with the monsters and harry potter with the special school.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all the Grey Griffins books and was so overjoyed to find out that the adventure didn't stop there. Derek Benz and J.S Lewis are my favorite authors and did such an awesome job with this. I could hug them! And no joke if this book left you with a craving for the next one just wait till you see the cliff hanger for book two, The Relic Hunters. ; D
Emilio Zertuche More than 1 year ago
ive read it once, and loved it! it is a page turner and a definent page turner
Lawral More than 1 year ago
The Brimstone Key is a great start to what looks like it will be a promising new direction in the Grey Griffins stories. As someone who has never picked up a Grey Griffins book before, I found this story easy to understand and catch up with. I may go back and read other Grey Griffins books now, while I wait for the next book, but I won't be going back to read them because I felt I was missing something here. That said, I probably did miss some things that devoted Grey Griffin fans will squee about. There were a few characters that were clearly making cameo appearances in this book, I assume from the previous Grey Griffin escapades, but they weren't so central to this story that I minded not really knowing who they were. Of course, there also might be a bit too much information and back story in the beginning of this book for someone who has just devoured the previous Grey Griffins series. Just because I appreciated all of the explanation and introduction of characters doesn't mean that everyone else will. BUT if you are a Grey Griffins fan, or are providing readers' advisory for one, rest assured that there is a lot after those first few chapters that Max, Natalia, Ernie and Harley were surprised about, so I'm sure you (or your reader) will be too. This book was pitched to me as a steampunk novel for middle grade readers, and I wondered just how the writers were going to pull that off with established characters from a series set in current times. They did it wonderfully and pretty realistically. Well, maybe realistically isn't the best word given that this is a fantasy novel, but the writers did not require any ridiculous suspensions of disbelief of me in order to fit the steampunk elements into the story. The Grey Griffins nemesis is a man who has spent the last century trapped in a Round Table card. When he somehow escapes, he restarts the experiments and projects that got him imprisoned in the first place. And voila! We have clockwork machines running amuck in the modern day (Templar cloaked) world. Fashions at Iron Bridge Academy also run on the steampunk-y style. At first, this was weird to me, but parts of it get explained away pretty understandably: * The Academy is not actually in Avalon, but in Iron Bridge, a Templar community outside of the "regular" world that has maintained Victorian sensibilities. * All the kids wear goggles because they can act out their Round Table tournaments with them. * A lot of the changelings are depressed about their lot in life, and so bring in the sort-of goth element. * All the grown-ups have weird weapons strapped all over them, especially when things start to get dangerous. Put all of that together with a bunch of evil clockwork machines and a "subway" restored to its turn of the century glory and you have a good old steampunk costume party at school every day, and because the Grey Griffins are woefully dorky, fashion-wise, all of this gets explained in great detail. While I'm a fan of the steampunk elements throughout (clearly), I don't think they are overwhelming to the story. Readers who are just looking for a fantasy or just looking for another Grey Griffins book shouldn't be put off by them. I really enjoyed getting to know all of the Grey Griffins (and a few new sidekicks). I'm sure that fans of the previous series will enjoy heading off to school with Grey Griffins here, and new readers are sure to be sucked in as well. Book source: Review copy fro
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is for babies...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a couple of years ago that I read this series. However to this day it is still one of my favorites. Mainly because I love stories about young adults with paranormal, or artificial powers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I couldn't fit the finale in the character limit so you all get another part. Next part at grey griffins book 2. This part is in Sam's p.o.v. On with the story! --- I saw my sword in the ground just a few feet away. Just as I was about to get it Marcus caught up to me. He grabbed my shirt and pulled me to the ground. His golden blade was at my throat. "You're finished." He said as he stood over me. I reached for my other sword, but he kicked it away. I had to think of something or I was through. He raised his blade to strike. I concentrated on his sword and as it was about to kill me, it bent in a 'U' shape. This caught him off guard and I used that to my advantage. I used my legs and swept his feet out from under him. I focused on my swords and pulled them over towards me. Now I had my swords by Marcus's throat. "I know you don't have the strength to kill me. You're weak." I raised my left sword to strike, but I turned the sword and hit him in the forehead with the pommel of the sword. He blacked out. "You're right." I said to him while he was passed out. "Julia grab Marcus and use your song magic. Put all your strength into your words." She stepped forward and put her hands on Marcus's temple. She sang a song and while it was in Latin it sounded beautiful. I understood most of her song. It told the story of all the good times she and Marcus had. After a few minutes she stopped. "That's all I could do." She said. Her voice was hoarse. "Now we wait." We sat there for what seemed like ages. Marcus began to stir. Everyone drew their weapons. He opened his eyes. Immediately, I knew something was different. His hand went straight to his head. "What hit me?" He said weakly. "Marcus.... how do you feel?" Julia asked him. "Julia? What's going on? Where are we? Who are these people?" Julia hugges him and he winced in pain. "You were gone for awhile, but now you're back." Julia said with tears streaming down her face, "I'll explain more once we get out of here." I looked back at Reese to see if she thought he was lying, but she shrugged. His words must've been genuine. I grabbed his back and reached inside to grab a familiar leather pouch. The bag of winds Jack had given me so long ago. This was our ticket out f here. We walked back over to the cliff where Marcus had entered. Everyone held onto the bag and I pulled the string. Imagine being on a rollar coaster going two hundred miles an hour. That's what riding the bag of winds was like. The winds seemed to be on autopilot. We flew out of Tartarus, up the entrance of Orpheus, and landed in the throne room of Hades. (Thank gods the door was open or we would've splattered against it.) Hades actually smiled at the sight of us, but it quickly vanished. "You survived." He glared at Marcus. "As for you. If you would have let me finish earlier I would've told you if you went down there you wouldn't come back the same person." Marcus looked confused. "What?" "Nevermind, father can you give us transportation home?" "I can do more than that." He waved his hand and we all passed out. We woke up surrounded by Marcus's guards. ---- To be continued...... for the last time. - SK
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series so much! I just wish i could find the first series via NOOK! Oh well, maybe I'll have to go search for it in print (Not that i mind print, it's just easier to carry one nook vs several books in a series.)
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Are you going to post soon
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is the best ever!! Just as good as the first series!!! PLEASE BUY !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
scribbleKN More than 1 year ago
Not as good as the first trilogy, and a little slower read, but has a bit more twists and turns. Still a good read. What can I say? I like familiarity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There youll find a review called Anaymous Janurary 13 read it and be ready.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book series is an extremaly great one for alll ages. It is filled with excitement, suspense, and emotion. This book of the Clockwork Chronicles series is about the return of the young Grey Griffens. They get a mysterious sign when they meet a beetle which leads them to the first part of there new journey. They are lead to find blueprints for some heavly armed machines. They soon figure out that the maker of the blueprints is called the Clockwork King, who is trying to save his daughter and won't rest intill he revives her ... therefore leading up to the Griffin's mission to stop him from get the main key to helping his daughter the Brimstone Key!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is amazing! Action packed and awesome
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