The Monster War: A League of Seven Novelby Alan Gratz
The Monster War is the third book in the action-packed, steampunk League of Seven series by acclaimed author Alan Gratz.
Having discovered the monstrous secret of his origins, Archie Dent is no longer certain that he is worthy to be a member of the League of Seven. But with new enemies to face, he realizes that he may not have the luxury of/p>/i>
The Monster War is the third book in the action-packed, steampunk League of Seven series by acclaimed author Alan Gratz.
Having discovered the monstrous secret of his origins, Archie Dent is no longer certain that he is worthy to be a member of the League of Seven. But with new enemies to face, he realizes that he may not have the luxury of questioning his destiny.
Wielding the Dragon Lantern, the maniacal Philomena Moffett has turned her back on the Septemberist Society, creating her own Shadow League and unleashing a monster army on the American continent. Archie and his friends must race to find the last two members of their league in time to thwart Moffett's plan and rescue humanity once more.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
Seven young heroes, together at last and diverse in many ways, tackle armies of monsters as well as a cycle of warfare that has turned for thousands of years."League of Seven—full steam ahead!" In this headlong climax, Gratz adds the final two members to his intrepid band of world savers: tattooed, gray-skinned "science-pirate" Martine, whose synesthetic perceptions come in handy more than once; and Gonzalo, a blind young Texas Ranger with a talkative, intelligent raygun dubbed Señor X. Colorful as these and the other League members are, both in the story and in Helquist's stylish portraits at each chapter's head, the central figure remains Archie Dent, a superstrong lad snow-white of skin and hair and made from solid rock. Here, as previously, Archie's internal struggles with rage and guilt parallel a string of awesomely destructive battles he and his allies have with the immortal Mangleborn and part-human Manglespawn led by tentacled archnemesis Philomena Moffett. Following a climactic battle at Gettysburg and a final dust-up with Moffett atop the great statue of Hiawatha in the harbor of New Rome (this is a very alternate, clockwork America), it only remains to expose the secret Septemberist Society, whose suppression of scientific research has misguidedly perpetuated the Mangleborn's cyclical return down through the centuries.A fitting capstone to an epic adventure replete with monsters, huge explosions, clever twists, and just deserts. (map) (Steampunk. 11-13)
Read an Excerpt
The Monster War
A League of Seven Novel
By Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2016 Alan Gratz
All rights reserved.
The chain that shackled Archie Dent to the boy beside him rattled as the steamwagon bounced down a rutted road, and they swayed into each other. Archie and his fellow prisoner sat in darkness in the back of the covered wagon, surrounded by the other children the kidnappers had taken from Houston's back alleys. They were the forgotten — the children who wore rags for clothes, ate scraps from trash bins, and slept outside. They were orphans, with no families and no homes to go back to. No one would miss them when they disappeared.
Archie wasn't worried about the chain around his leg. He could rip it off whenever he wanted to. But the boy he was shackled to looked frightened. He was a Texian about Archie's age, and just as small, with light brown skin and dark black hair. He had the same grubby, dirt-caked look of the other street children, but unlike the rest he wore proper denim pants, a cowboy shirt that used to be white, and a scuffed-up pair of brown leather boots. The boy stared straight forward, his eyes vacant and distant like so many of the others.
"Everything's going to be okay," Archie said.
The funny thing was, the other boy said the same thing to him at the same time.
Archie blinked. This homeless kid was telling him everything was going to be okay?
"Name's Gonzalo," the boy said, still staring straight forward. "What's yours?"
Archie didn't want to tell the kid his real name. Luis Senarens, the writer Archie and Hachi and Fergus had saved in the tunnels beneath New Rome, had published dozens of pulp adventures featuring the three of them battling giant monsters, and now he was famous. Gonzalo might have read one of Senarens's dime novels and give away who he was.
"My name's, um, Clyde," Archie lied.
Gonzalo turned his head at that, almost like he didn't believe him. But if he thought he was lying, he didn't call Archie on it. "Where you from, Clyde?"
"Philadelphia," Archie said, telling the truth this time.
"Long way from home," Gonzalo said.
"What about you?" Archie asked.
"Austin, originally," Gonzalo said. "Now kind of all over. You got parents?"
The couple who'd raised Archie, Dalton and Agatha Dent, lived just outside Philadelphia, in Powhatan territory. He'd thought of them as his parents for the first twelve years of his life, but technically Archie didn't have parents. Because he wasn't human. The thought chilled him all over again, and he longed for the solitude of the dark corner in his hotel room.
"I ... I don't have any parents," Archie told him, which was true and wasn't true.
Gonzalo nodded. "I never once laid eyes on mine."
The steamwagon shuddered to a stop, and Archie tensed, ready to fight. But they were just picking up more children. They weren't wherever they were all being taken yet. One of the banditos who'd kidnapped them threw open the curtain at the back of the wagon to push more children inside. Bright sunlight lit up the darkness, and as Archie threw an arm up to shield his eyes he remembered doing the same thing this morning in his hotel room when Mr. Rivets had thrown open the curtains.
"Don't!" Archie had told Mr. Rivets, shrinking back into the shadows in the corner.
Mr. Rivets, Archie's clockwork manservant, tutor, and best friend, ticked softly as he studied his young charge. "It is time you got out of that corner, Master Archie. Cleaned yourself up. Had some food. You haven't eaten in days."
Archie twisted away from the light streaming in through the window. "Why should I?" he asked Mr. Rivets. "I don't need to eat. I don't even need to breathe. I can't die. I could sit here in this corner forever if I wanted to."
"Which would be an incredible waste, sir. It is time you rejoined the living," Mr. Rivets told him.
"I don't want to," Archie said. "I don't want to do anything." He'd told Mr. Rivets the same thing every day for a week, ever since they'd arrived in Houston. Ever since he'd learned the horrible truth about how he'd been brought to life. "Close the curtains. I belong in the darkness."
That's what he was, after all. A shadow. The darkest shadow of them all.
"There are matters you must attend to, Master Archie. If I were not now self-winding, I would have run down long ago. And you promised Miss Hachi and Master Fergus you would meet them here in Houston. They may be somewhere in the city as we speak, and we must warn them about Philomena Moffett and her Monster Army."
"I don't care. I don't want to see them. I don't want to see anyone ever again. I'm done. With everything."
"There is something else, Master Archie," Mr. Rivets went on, as though Archie hadn't said anything. "In my search for Master Fergus and Miss Hachi, I have discovered that children are being stolen from Houston's streets."
Archie lifted his head. "What?"
"Homeless children," Mr. Rivets said. "Taken by masked men with steamwagons. In broad daylight, no less. I interrupted one such kidnapping only this morning, and alerted the local authorities to the problem. But they are too taxed due to handling security for the annual Livestock Exhibition and Rodeo currently being held at the Astral Dome."
"The what?" Archie said. He shook his head and turned back to the wall. "No — I don't care. I don't want to know. It's not my problem."
"I see," said Mr. Rivets. "I apologize, Master Archie." His brass head with its metal bowler hat and mustache tilted as he thought. "There is one small matter at least that must be attended to. Your parents have sent us funds via pneumatic post, and the post office requires you to be there in person to sign for it."
Archie squeezed his eyes shut tight. "I don't care, Mr. Rivets!"
"May I remind you, Master Archie, that without these funds we shall be turned out of the hotel and onto Houston's streets, where, I can assure you, it is far brighter and hotter than your corner."
Archie huffed. Fine. He would go to the post office and sign for the blinking money. But that was it. He was coming right back here to this corner, this shadow. He wasn't taking a bath, or eating food, or sleeping in a bed. He was through pretending to be human. And he wasn't rescuing any kidnapped children either.
He was through pretending to be a hero too.
Archie had followed along in Mr. Rivets's shadow, brass goggles hiding the eyes he kept on the ground so he wouldn't have to see the brown-skinned, black-haired people of Houston staring at his pale white skin and snowy white hair. They walked for nearly half an hour through Houston's hot, dusty streets, until finally Mr. Rivets stopped. Archie looked up to find himself in a narrow dirt alleyway squeezed in between two wooden warehouses somewhere in Houston's maze of side streets. A dozen or so half-naked Texian children were playing some kind of game where they tried to bounce a rubber ball through barrel rings they'd nailed to the wall. Farther down the street, two dogs fought over a scrap one of them had dug out of an overturned trash can, and a pile of empty wooden crates looked as though someone might be living in them.
Archie didn't understand. Where was the post office?
"I would advise you not to fight at this juncture," Mr. Rivets said. "You should allow yourself to be captured instead. That way you'll be taken to the ringleaders of the operation."
"What ringleaders? What operation?" Archie asked. "What are you talking about?" Had Mr. Rivets slipped a cog?
The ground rumbled as two steamwagons backed into the lane, one from each direction. Texian men in brown leather pants, denim shirts, and white cowboy hats leaped from the covered beds of the wagons, rayguns in hand and bandanas covering their faces. Kazaaack! An orange beam from one of the pistols blew up the rubber ball, and the children screamed. They tried to run, but both ends of the street were blocked by the men and their steamwagons.
"All right, chamacos!" one of the banditos called. "No messing around now! Into the trucks nice and easy, and nobody gets hurt." One by one, the banditos snatched up the children and tossed them into the wagons.
"Mr. Rivets, what's going on?" Archie asked. But when he turned around the machine man was gone. "Mr. Rivets?"
And that's when Archie understood: Mr. Rivets had tricked him into getting captured by the kidnappers so he would have to save the other children.CHAPTER 2
Archie squinted in the bright light as more chained children were stuffed into the steamwagon with him and Gonzalo. If he'd wanted to, Archie could have broken their chains, crushed the kidnappers' rayguns in his fist, and punched every one of the banditos into the next alley. But knocking these men through a wall wasn't going to save all the other children they had kidnapped and were holding somewhere else, and these banditos would just be replaced by more men with bandanas and rayguns. Archie silently cursed Mr. Rivets with a few choice words the machine would have scolded him for using. Archie didn't want to be here. He didn't want to be anywhere. He wished he'd never been born — or whatever you called how he came into the world. Created. Sculpted. Soaked with blood.
Archie shuddered at the thought. This was it. The last time. He would ride this steamwagon to the banditos' headquarters and save these kids because he was here, but then he was done. And if Mr. Rivets wouldn't listen, Archie would wander off into the Texian desert, cross the border into New Spain, and disappear into the wilderness alone.
As to what the banditos were doing with the children, Archie had a guess. In his experience, it always came down to the Mangleborn, the giant prehistoric creatures that stirred every few hundred years to drive humanity mad and destroy everything they'd built. Some Mangleborn-worshipping cultists needed the children's blood for sacrifices, or wanted to turn them into hideous half-human/half-animal Manglespawn, or meant to feed them to some Mangleborn or Manglespawn. Archie shook his head. Whatever it was, he would stop it, and then he was done. For good.
Archie heard a roar outside the steamwagon as it slowed to a stop. Here we go, Archie thought. A Manglespawn with a bat's wings and a bear's body. Or maybe a Mangleborn with a thousand snakes for arms and rooster legs for feet. Archie popped his neck and got ready to fight.
"Sounds like a crowd," Gonzalo said. "A big arena. The Astral Dome, maybe."
Archie blinked. Now that Gonzalo mentioned it, it did sound like the roar of a crowd.
The bandits hooked a cattle ramp with covered sides to the back to the wagon and shooed the children out, two by two. As they passed from the steamwagon, Archie briefly saw the round, silver top of the Astral Dome, one of the Seven Wonders of the New World. The ancient coliseum dominated Houston's skyline.
"You're right," Archie whispered. "They're taking us into the basement of the Astral Dome!" He shook his head again. "Underground. It's always underground."
"What is?" Gonzalo asked.
"Nothing," Archie said. No reason to scare Gonzalo until he saw whatever monster it was these guys worshipped. That would be enough scare for a lifetime.
The roar of the crowd above was louder now, and came every few minutes. It was like they were right underneath the arena floor. Something thudded above them, shaking the stone ceiling and the walls, and the crowd roared again. What exactly did people do in a rodeo? The pens they passed in the hallways under the arena were filled with steamhorses and mechanical bulls. Did they race them? Fight them? Archie had no idea. There weren't a lot of rodeos in Philadelphia.
It took Archie a few minutes to notice that the lights in the passageways weren't gas. They glowed bluish-yellow from behind small orbs set into the walls.
"Are the lights ... lektricity?" he whispered.
"You mean like lightning? No, I don't think so," Gonzalo said, his eyes still straight ahead. "I hear tell they glow the same way fireflies do. That's why they call it the Astral Dome. Roof's covered with them, like stars. It's ancient technology. Older even than the Romans. Ain't never dark inside the Astral Dome. Never hot, neither."
Gonzalo was right — it wasn't hot in here! Archie felt a cold breeze coming out of a metal vent, cooling the underground passage. "But how —?"
"Air conditioning," Gonzalo said. "Legend says the ancients had a way to cool the entire arena without ice, but ain't no one knows how to do that no more. Instead, they pack the bottom levels with ice and blow air over it and through the air ducts the ancients built."
So. Some kind of ice monster then, Archie thought. Something living in the frozen depths of the Astral Dome. Or maybe it's the ice itself — a kind of living ice that gets inside you, turns you into a killer snowman.
"In here, chamacos," a bandito told them, pointing to a dark chamber deep inside the passageways underneath the arena.
Here we go, thought Archie. Now we meet the monster.
The chamber was lined with more of the mechanical bull pens Archie had seen earlier, but these pens were full of children. Mostly Texian, like Gonzalo, and all dirty and thin and ragged. Archie looked around for some sign of Mangleborn or Manglespawn, but there was nothing. Nothing but shabby, crying children, and smiling banditos.
"A good haul today, jefe," one of their captors said. He gave Archie a push, and Gonzalo stumbled forward with him on their chain. "We even got a gringo!"
A redheaded mestizo man with a bushy red beard, black suit, and brown bow tie crossed the room to them. "So I see! He'll fetch a good price in New Spain." He lifted Gonzalo's chin to look at his teeth. "They all will! Put them in the pens."
"Procopio Murietta," Gonzalo muttered as they were led away.
"You know this guy?" Archie asked.
Gonzalo nodded. "He's wanted for murder, bank robbery, and cattle rustling from Texas to the California Republic, and everywhere in between. And now it sounds like child slavery too."
Was that really all this was? Banditos rounding up children off Houston's streets and selling them as slaves to ranchers across the border in New Spain who couldn't afford Tik Toks? Not that it wasn't awful and needed to be stopped. It was, and it did. But Archie had been so sure there would be some Mangleborn connection to it all. He couldn't believe it was just good old-fashioned bad guys.
All the better. Archie could wipe the floor with these banditos, free the kids, and be headed south for the border in no time. Archie planned out his attack. He could knock down any jail cell door they put him behind, but it would be better to move now, before they locked him away. Better to keep the other kids safe until he was finished with the banditos.
"We oughtta make our move before they lock us up," Gonzalo whispered.
Archie stopped in surprise, bringing Gonzalo up short on the chain that connected them. "Who, you and me?" Archie asked.
"No," Gonzalo said. "I weren't talking to you —"
Something big and wild roared deeper down in the Astral Dome's sublevels, shaking the ground like an earthquake.
"Órale! What was that?" said Gonzalo.
Archie was afraid he knew.
"The cucuy is hungry," Procopio announced. "We need tributes."
The prisoners in the pens cried out and retreated into the darkness.
"What's a cucuy?" Archie whispered.
"It's a kind of bogeyman Texian parents scare their kids with," Gonzalo said. "A monster."
"Right. Of course," Archie said. He'd been right after all. No matter what, things always came back to the Mangleborn.
Gonzalo looked at the floor. "This one of them creatures you were talking about?" he asked. "The ones causing all the trouble?"
Archie frowned. "I didn't say anything about monsters." He'd been thinking it, but he hadn't said anything about the Mangleborn. Before he could ask what Gonzalo meant, the redheaded bandito started rounding up children.
"Take these, and these, and these," Procopio said, passing over Archie and Gonzalo, "and feed them to the cucuy."
"Wait! Take me instead!" Archie and Gonzalo yelled at the same time.
Archie and Gonzalo looked at each other, both surprised the other had volunteered to go in place of a tribute. Who is this guy? Archie wondered.
Procopio frowned down at them, trying to understand why two children would want to be fed to a monster. "No," he said. "These two are too valuable. Put them in a cell."
Excerpted from The Monster War by Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist. Copyright © 2016 Alan Gratz. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
ALAN GRATZ is the author of the League of Seven series, Samurai Shortstop, and Prisoner B-3087. He began writing The League of Seven, winner of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Young Adult Book Award, by listing all the things that ten-year-old Alan would have thought were awesome, including brass goggles, airships, tentacled monsters, brains in jars, windup robots, secret societies, and super powers. (In fact, he still thinks all those things are awesome.) He lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter.
ALAN GRATZ was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. After graduating from the University of Tennessee, he began a succession of jobs—newsletter writer, high school teacher, university lecturer, bookseller, radio commercial writer, advertising copy writer, middle school teacher, library shelver—all the while working on various writing projects. In 2006, he published his first novel, Samurai Shortstop, an ALA 2007 Top Ten Book for Young Adults. Alan’s award-winning books include The Brooklyn Nine, Fantasy Baseball, Starfleet Academy: The Assassination Game, Prisoner B-3087, and The League of Seven, the first in a series of alternate history middle grade fantasy novels. When he’s not writing, he’s usually reading other people’s books or creating an awesome new costume for science fiction/fantasy conventions. He lives with his family in North Carolina.
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