The Relic Hunters (Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles Series #2)by Derek Benz, Jon S. Lewis
In just one semester at Iron Bridge Academy, The Grey Griffins have already had quite an education-clockwork robots, students with super powers, and a hidden land beyond our world where mystical creatures and incredible inventions exist. But as second semester begins, their friendship is put to the test-Max, Ernie, Natalia, and Harley are growing apart. When their… See more details below
In just one semester at Iron Bridge Academy, The Grey Griffins have already had quite an education-clockwork robots, students with super powers, and a hidden land beyond our world where mystical creatures and incredible inventions exist. But as second semester begins, their friendship is put to the test-Max, Ernie, Natalia, and Harley are growing apart. When their arch nemesis Otto Von Strife reemerges with another evil plan, the Griffins must learn to set aside their differences and reunite to save the world. And each other.
A teeming cast, a mare's nest of plotlines and characters with ambiguous agendas muddle this sequel toThe Brimstone Key(2010).
The morass of steampunk and fantasy conventions includes giant armored battle suits and flying cars, zombies, magical weapons and shapechanging Faerie familiars. In the midst of this, the four young Grey Griffins begin to drift apart. Natalia makes new friends, and Ernie, still smarting over events from the previous volume, splits off to lead a band of costumed vigilantes. Meanwhile, Harley becomes the assistant to a renowned inventor who is wasting away from an unidentified illness, and Max has confusing visions of the supposedly evil Otto Von Strife. This last character's conveniently available notebook reveals that he's building a world-threatening Paragon Engine. Led by mysterious instructor Obadiah Strange, the Grey Griffins reunite first on a failed mission that leaves them watching as Von Strife's teleporting associate Smoke whisks away both Strange and a magical (?) relic called the Schrödinger Box, then to mount an attack on the Paragon Engine that ends in a cliffhanger. Readers hoping to keep track of who's who and what's where will definitely want to start with the previous episode, but they are likely to feel that they've wasted their time after a climactic revelation renders the entire plot nonsensical.
There's a lot better out there than this.(Steampunk. 11-13)
Read an Excerpt
Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles #2: The Relic Hunters
By Benz, Derek
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2011 Benz, Derek
All right reserved.
Strange things had been happening in Avalon, Minnesota.
Once known for ice-cream socials and its quaint Main Street, the tiny town in the middle of nowhere had been overrun by the bizarre. Last night, a Tundra Troll destroyed a fishing shack that sat on the icy surface of the lake. Witnesses thought it might have been some kind of bear, but it was dark and they didn’t get a good look. Besides, bears don’t have horns coming out of the sides of their heads or tusks jutting up from their jaws.
“It’s a good thing nobody was here,” Max Sumner said as he walked through what was left of the fishing shack. Even though he was only twelve years old, Max was the leader of the Grey Griffins, a team of young monster hunters tasked with saving the world from the creatures that go bump in the night.
Natalia Romanov pulled a clump of white fur out of a splintered board and inspected it with her Phantasmoscope, a multi-lens magnifying glass that allowed her to see into the faerie spectrum. “It was definitely a Tundra Troll.”
“The tracks are heading out to the island,” Harley Eisenstein said, kneeling in the snow. He was a head taller than the other two, and his shoulders were nearly twice as broad.
“It’s weird being here without Ernie,” Natalia said as she sealed the fur specimen in a plastic bag.
Ernie Tweeny was the fourth member of the Grey Griffins. A transfusion of faerie blood had turned Ernie into a changeling and given him superpowers. Now he could run faster than the eye could see. The adjustment hadn’t been difficult until his friend Robert Hernandez, another changeling, was murdered. Ernie was convinced that the Grey Griffins could have saved Robert, which was why he hadn’t spent any time with them over their winter break.
“I thought changelings couldn’t get sick,” Harley said.
“They can’t,” Natalia said. “The faerie blood enhances their immune system. They even heal faster than we do.”
“He’s not sick,” Max said. “He’s avoiding us.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Natalia said.
“What if he’s right?” Max asked. “I mean, maybe we could have saved Robert.”
“Robert is dead because a lunatic ripped his soul out of his body,” Natalia said. “We didn’t have anything to do with that.”
Max sighed. “I guess.”
“We better get going,” Harley said. “These tracks are pretty old. We don’t want that thing showing up at your grandma’s back door.”
Harley was a virtuoso when it came to anything with a motor, and he had retrofitted the Griffins’ snowmobiles with steam-powered propulsion units.
Snow spit out from the treads of their snowmobiles as the three friends tore across the surface of the lake in pursuit of the Tundra Troll. When Harley’s skis hit the steep shoreline of the island, he pressed a button. Silver flames erupted from the tailpipes, and the snowmobile shot into the air.
It touched down, sending snow exploding into the air. Then Harley shot toward a narrow path that was cut into the trees.
“Right behind you,” Natalia said through her communication link. She’d decided to take a more cautious approach. Her engine groaned as she climbed up the steep embankment.
Once Natalia was a safe distance away, Max activated his propulsion unit. The momentum sent him flying up the hill. He jumped higher than he’d intended to, and the snowmobile started to pull away. His legs ended up in a full split, and his fingers began slipping from the handlebars.
Max crashed to the ground. His head snapped forward before the momentum nearly threw him off the back of the snowmobile. Somehow he’d managed to hang on, but now he was heading toward the trunk of a maple tree. He thrust the handlebars to the right. The tread skidded as the snowmobile went sideways toward another tree. He twisted back to the left, straightening the snowmobile, and headed down the path after the other two.
The sun was just starting to rise, but it was caught behind a bank of clouds that threatened to unleash another winter storm. Without the headlights on their snowmobiles, it would have been impossible to follow the winding path through the forest.
“Are you picking anything up on the scanner?” Max asked over the roar of his motor. He could see Natalia up ahead. Her auburn braids were flailing behind her helmet as she sped along the trail.
“Not yet,” Max heard Harley say through his earpiece. “Wait…. there’s something big, and it’s heading our way.”
There was a loud crack before a tree fell across the path, and the impact shook the ground. Harley pulled back on his brakes to avoid the tree, but he was still going too fast. The snowmobile veered to the left, then the right, before smashing into a snowbank.
The snowmobile stopped, but Harley didn’t. He flew over the handlebars and into the trees, where he landed on gnarled roots jutting up from the snow. Harley groaned as his breath rushed out of his lungs.
“Harley!” Natalia shouted. She pulled up just as an enormous creature stepped out from the shadows. It stood over ten feet tall and had mangy white fur that hung damp from the snow.
The Tundra Troll threw its head back and roared. The horrible sound echoed through the trees, sending birds leaping from their perches into the sky.
Harley scrambled to his feet, ignoring his aching ribs and sore back. He reached his snowmobile as the Tundra Troll towered over Natalia. The monster looked down at her before tilting its head to the side, saliva dripping from its massive jaw and onto the snow. With nostrils flared, it roared once more.
Natalia cowered, covering her head with her arms. Max tore off his helmet and removed the glove on his right hand. He twisted the enchanted ring on his finger, and the ring shimmered before melting into a liquid that coated his hand, forming a medieval glove. Max flexed his fingers, and streaks of blue energy crackled across the surface.
At the same time, Harley pulled a multishot grenade launcher from the holster of his snowmobile. He threw the strap over his head before bringing the butt of the launcher to his shoulder.
Max raised the gauntlet. A bolt of blue lightning shot from his palm. It lit up the morning haze and slammed into the troll’s shoulder, knocking the monster off balance. Max struck again. The troll shook its head before bellowing. It picked up the fallen tree and threw it at Max, but the beast missed.
Harley pulled the trigger of the grenade launcher. A canister shot from the barrel and burst, shooting out a net. Like Max’s gauntlet, the net crackled with blue light as it wrapped around the troll’s head and torso. The troll fought to break free, but the energy singed its skin and held back the monster.
Natalia took deep breaths and then closed her eyes as she reached for the oversized revolver that hung from the holster on her hip. Each cartridge was filled with enough tranquilizer serum to knock an elephant out for a week. She took aim with both hands, then squeezed the trigger three times in rapid succession. The first dart struck the monster in the neck. The second hit its shoulder. The third, its stomach.
The Tundra Troll became enraged, ripping the net in two before tossing it aside. The monster looked down at the darts sticking out of its hide and pulled them out in succession. Its eyelids were heavy. It stumbled, but it wasn’t done.
The troll lunged for Max, but there was a blur of motion as a white wolf tore out from the shadows and jumped over the fallen tree. The Tundra Troll spun around. The wolf leaped, its jaws wide, and it clamped down on the troll’s shoulder. They fell to the ground, and snow rose in a great cloud. When it settled, the wolf was standing on the troll’s chest with its muzzle pulled back in a wicked snarl.
The Tundra Troll picked up the wolf by the nape of its neck and threw it into a tree trunk, where the wolf crumpled.
“Sprig!” Max shouted.
The troll tried to stand. It made it to one knee before its eyes started to close. Natalia hit it with another dart, this time in its back. The monster yowled, grabbing at the tranquilizer dart, which was just out of its reach. Harley stood on the fallen tree, looking down at the troll, with the barrel of his grenade launcher pointed at the monster, but he didn’t need to pull the trigger.
The troll swayed, then fell. Its breathing was shallow as it lay unconscious. Breathing heavily, Max walked over to join his friends as they looked down at the sedated monster.
“I don’t know how long the serum is going to last,” Natalia said. She took off her helmet and strapped the tranquilizer gun back in her holster.
“You know, I wonder what kind of pet a Tundra Troll would make,” Harley said.
“You’re kidding, right?” Natalia said.
“I don’t know. Think what would happen if a burglar tried to break into your house and he found one of these babies.”
“I’d rather not.”
Max raised his palm and released a stream of light from his gauntlet. The blue energy swirled until it formed a crackling sphere of light. The captivity orb hit the troll in the chest, and the blue hue began spreading over its body. Once the Tundra Troll was encased, a bright light flashed, and the orb and the troll disappeared.
“Nice work,” Max said to Harley and Natalia. Then he walked into the woods to check on Sprig.
No longer a wolf, the shape-shifting faerie had turned back to her natural form. With large eyes, pointed ears, spiky fur, and a pink nose, she looked almost feline as she lay in the snow.
Spriggans were famous for being mischievous, sometimes ruining crops and spoiling milk. But once they found a human partner, they were the most loyal creatures—at least so far as a faerie could be loyal.
“Are you okay?” Max asked.
Sprig was licking blood off her forepaw. “We are fine,” she said, her voice soft. Max could barely hear her above the wind. He reached out to pet her back, but she recoiled under his touch. “It’s a bit tender.”
“What was that?” Harley asked.
“What?” Natalia said. “I didn’t hear anything.”
Max stood up.
“There it is again,” Harley said. “Did you hear it?”
“What was it?” Max asked.
“I don’t know…. It was moving too fast, but it sounded like branches snapping.” Harley loaded his grenade launcher and moved off the path.
Excerpted from Grey Griffins: The Clockwork Chronicles #2: The Relic Hunters by Benz, Derek Copyright © 2011 by Benz, Derek. Excerpted by permission.
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