The Brimstone Key (Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles Series #1) by Derek Benz, Jon S. Lewis |, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
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.


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. The Clockwork King, a Templar foe from days past, has returned to finish the plan he set in motion decades ago. A plot to steal the souls of changelings—-humans infused with fairy blood and supernatural abilities—-in order to power his army of clockwork war machines.

In The Brimstone Key, authors Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis deftly blend the mystical wonder of steampunk with magic and adventure to create an action-packed thrill ride.

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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