The League of Seven

The League of Seven

by Alan Gratz, Brett Helquist

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The League of Seven is the first book in an action-packed, steampunk series by the acclaimed author of Samurai Shortstop, Alan Gratz.

In an alternate 1875 America electricity is forbidden, Native Americans and Yankees are united, and eldritch evil lurks in the shadows. Young Archie Dent knows there really are monsters in the world. His parents are members of the Septemberist Society, whose job it is to protect humanity from hideous giants called the Mangleborn. Trapped in underground prisons for a thousand years, the giant monsters have been all but forgotten—but now they are rising again as the steam-driven America of 1875 rediscovers electricity, the lifeblood of the Mangleborn. When his parents and the rest of the Septemberists are brainwashed by one of the evil creatures, Archie must assemble a team of seven young heroes to save the world.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466838505
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 08/19/2014
Series: League of Seven Series , #1
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 497,224
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

ALAN GRATZ is the author of Samurai Shortstop, an ALA 2007 Top Ten Book for Young Adults. He began writing The League of Seven 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.
Brett Helquist is the illustrator of many popular books for children.

Read an Excerpt

The League of Seven

By Alan Gratz

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2014 Alan Gratz
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-3850-5


The secret entrance to the headquarters of the Septemberist Society could only be reached by submarine. Twelve-year-old Archie Dent had been there a dozen times before and still he had no idea where it was. Mannahatta? Staten Island? Breucklen? Queens County? For all he knew, the submarine they took to the group's secret headquarters didn't go to any of New Rome's boroughs at all. It might turn right around from the Hudson River Submarine Landing in Jersey and head back to Hackensack territory. And asking didn't help either. His mother and father either didn't know where it was, or they wouldn't tell him.

"I'll bet the Septemberist Society is under the big statue of Hiawatha in New Rome Harbor," he told his parents as they wove their way through the crowd down to the submarine docks. "That would be so brass!"

"We don't talk about the Society in public, Archie. You know that," his mother told him. "And I've asked you before not to use that awful slang."

Archie sighed. His parents were such square cogs. They were researchers for the Septemberists, both of them, and they spent their days with their noses in old books and their nights with their eyes glued to telescopes, looking for signs that the Mangleborn might be breaking out of their underground prisons. That's why they had left their observatory and come to New Rome today: The stars were right for Malacar Ahasherat, the Swarm Queen, to break free of her prison in the Florida swamps, and the Society had to be warned.

"There," Archie's father said. "The red submersible. That's the one we want."

The red submarine was dwarfed by its ocean-liner cousins — the massive four-hundred-foot-long, seven-thousand-tonne gray behemoths that carried passengers up and down the East Coast, from Acadia in the north to New Spain and Brasil in the south. Men in heavy frock coats and neckties and women in crinolines and petticoats waited for clockwork porters to load their steamer trunks onto the subs. As much as Archie was looking forward to seeing the Septemberist Society's secret headquarters again, he wished he were boarding one of the enormous submarines, setting off on an adventure that would take him all over the United Nations and beyond. But no. After his parents delivered their warning to the Society, it would be back to the family estate in Philadelphia again. Back to the books and the telescopes.

The little submarine was whale shaped, with great fins at the back that controlled its position in the water. A white plume of smoke and steam rose from a hole on its back like water from a whale's blowhole, and it had great round eyelike windows at the front for the pilot to see out of. Its name, painted along its side, was the SS Seven Seas.

"Ahoy there," the Dents' Tik Tok servant called to the machine-man pilot who stood sentry at the wood-and-rope gangplank to the sub. "I am Mr. Rivets. This is Mr. and Mrs. Dent, and their son, Master Archie."

"Thirty days hath September," the Tik Tok captain said.

"Seven heroes we remember," said Mr. Dent, giving the Society's secret pass phrase. He lifted the lapel on his jacket to reveal a pin with an image of a human eye atop a pyramid, set inside a seven-pointed star. The symbol of the Septemberist Society.

"Permission to come aboard, Mr. Hull?" Mr. Dent asked.

"Aye. Permission granted." Mr. Hull was a brass Emartha Mark II Machine Man like Mr. Rivets, but instead of a riveted metal vest and bowler hat like the Dents' machine man, he'd been customized with a copper sailor's cap and captain's jacket, both of which had turned green over time. Mr. Rivets had talent cards that could be switched out to give him different skills, but Mr. Hull's Submarine Pilot card was permanently installed.

"Why do we have to give the Society's secret pass phrase and show him the pin?" Archie asked his mother. "Mr. Hull's been our captain every time. Doesn't he know us by now?"

"It's protocol, Archie. What if we weren't really ourselves this time?"

Archie frowned. "Who else would we be?"

"Hurry along, Archie," Mr. Dent said from the hatchway. "Time and tide wait for no man."

Inside, the submarine was all riveted steel and brass pipes and fittings. To the aft down a narrow passage was the hissing, steaming boiler room. To the fore was a small lounge with two red-cushioned couches. Beyond that, through a small open door, was the pilot's cockpit. Archie's parents and Mr. Rivets had already taken seats in the lounge and were fastening their safety harnesses when Mr. Hull closed the tophatch and screwed it shut.

Archie headed for the cockpit.

"Archie, I think we can leave the piloting of the ship to Mr. Hull this time," his father said.

"But I always sit up front," Archie said. As a kid, he'd begged to sit up front and watch Mr. Hull pilot the submersible, and Mr. Hull had always let him.

"Don't you think you're getting a little old for that?" his mother said.

Archie was crestfallen. Slag it. He was telling his parents all the time that he wasn't a little kid anymore, and the one time they agreed, he didn't want them to.

"It's all right by me, Mrs. Dent," Mr. Hull said as he walked through the lounge to the cockpit.

Archie grinned and hurried into the cockpit with Mr. Hull before his parents could tell him not to. Next time he'd ride in the back. Maybe.

Archie sat down in the copilot's seat beside Mr. Hull. The Tik Tok flipped switches and turned dials and checked gauges. Archie had no idea what any of them did, but he loved the sound of them clicking and whirring and spinning. One day maybe he'd have a submersible of his own, and run missions for the Septemberists.

With a metallic clank and a lurch, the SS Seven Seas disengaged from its mooring on the dock and turned in the cavernous underground port.

"Hold fast now," Mr. Hull announced. "We're ready to dive."

The machine man flipped a switch, and the submarine shook as air burbled out of the ballast tanks. Sloshing water rose on the window until the cave disappeared, replaced by the black of the Hudson River. The Tik Tok captain flipped another switch, and a keel-mounted carbide lamp lit up the water in front of them. The Seven Seas passed underneath the huge steel hood that protected the submarine landing from New Rome Harbor, and the ghostly, shimmering light of the gray New Rome morning filtered down to them through the choppy sea. Ships had once traveled on top of the water, not underneath it, Archie knew. Mr. Rivets had shown him pictures in old books. But all that had changed when the Darkness fell on the Old World a hundred years ago. Now the Atlantis Ocean was too rough to sail above. It could only be navigated under the waves, and every submarine sent to Europe to find out what had happened never came back.

"How long can you stay underwater?" Archie asked.

"About two hours at normal speed," said Mr. Hull. "Then I have to come up for air and stoke the furnace. But we'll have you to Septemberist headquarters long before that."

"Because it's just under the statue of Hiawatha on Oyster Island, right?"

Mr. Hull adjusted a dial. "I'm afraid I couldn't say, sir."

Archie smiled. That's what machine men said when they'd been ordered to keep a secret. Mark IIs were fundamentally unable to lie. It was built into their clockworks. Instead, they just said "I'm afraid I couldn't say." It had been worth a shot though.

True to Mr. Hull's word, the SS Seven Seas soon surfaced in a gaslit cave. This port was far smaller than the Hudson River Submarine Landing, but still big enough for two other small submersibles to bob at the unadorned and empty dock. Mr. Hull pulled them up alongside, and Archie helped him tie off the boat before following his parents up the stone steps to the great hall of the Septemberist Society.

Archie loved the great hall. It was round and tall, with domed steel arches to hold up a ceiling carved out of rock. Leading out of the room were seven doorways, one of which led back the way they had come from the submarine landing. All around the hall, in between the seven doorways, stood seven stone statues — one for each member of the Ancient League of Seven. Wayland Smith, the Norse tinker who invented the raygun, with his hammer. Maat, the Aegyptian princess with her talking staff, who brought justice to the world. Daedalus, the Greek scientist who taught mankind how to fly in airships. Anansi, the Afrikan trickster who stole the Mangleborn gauntlet. Hippolyta, the Amazonian warrior, whose arrows had taken down legions of Manglespawn. Heracles, the hulking, half-naked Greek with his club, whose dark, angry fury had brought the League to its knees — but saved it too. That statue had always frightened Archie, and still did. But last there was Theseus, Archie's favorite, the Athenian hero with the curly locks and the neat tunic and the short sword, who had brought this League of Seven together and led them to victory over the Mangleborn.

It wasn't the original League of Seven, of course. The original League's names and faces had been lost to time. There had been more Leagues before the Ancient League and more since, but they were always seven, and always the same: a tinker, a law-bringer, a scientist, a trickster, a warrior, a strongman, and a hero. Seven men and women with incredible powers from all parts of the known world who joined forces to stop the Mangleborn from enslaving humanity. Different Leagues had saved the world over and over again, but few people knew that. Only the Septemberists remembered — septem for "seven" in Latin, September having once been the seventh month, and named in their honor — watching for signs that the Mangleborn might escape the elaborate prisons the Ancient League had built for them, and waiting for a new League of Seven to be born.

"Archie, we'll be meeting with the chief and her council in their chambers," his father told him. "You and Mr. Rivets wait out here. Mr. Rivets, I don't want him getting into any trouble."

"I shall do what I can, sir," Mr. Rivets said. Before they'd left the family airship in Hackensack territory, Mr. Dent had replaced Mr. Rivets' Airship Pilot talent card with his Protector card. Or, as Archie liked to call it, the "Babysitter card."

Mr. and Mrs. Dent went through the door next to Theseus, which led to the council chambers.

"Odd," Mr. Rivets said, the clicking of his internal clockworks echoing faintly in the tall round room. "I would have expected someone to greet us. Mr. Pendulum, at the very least." Mr. Pendulum was the head Tik Tok at Septemberist headquarters.

"If a Mangleborn is rising, they're probably all in the council chambers worrying about it," Archie said. "So ... can I have it?"

Mr. Rivets tilted his mechanical head. "Your father directed me to keep you out of trouble, Master Archie, not to abet it."

"Aw, come on, Mr. Rivets! Don't be clinker. It's just a toy."

"Language, Master Archie," the Tik Tok scolded, but he opened a door on his brass body disguised as a vest pocket and revealed a toy raygun stowed inside. Archie snatched it up. It was made to look just like a real aether pistol, but when you pulled the trigger all it did was rev and spark.

"I'll be Theseus! You be Lesool Eshar, the Deceiver in the Dark."

"As you wish, Master Archie. I shall endeavor to be monstrous, gigantic, and cruel. Roar."

Archie clicked the trigger a few times at Mr. Rivets, peppering him with an imaginary heat ray as the toy gun sparked, then ran through the door beside Heracles. Sometimes he would visit the workshop through the door beside Wayland Smith to marvel at the Society's latest gadgets. Another time he had explored the archives through the door beside Daedalus, but he got enough of libraries and books at home. Once he had even sneaked into the weapons room beyond the statue of the warrior Hippolyta and gaped at the arsenal of aether pistols and oscillators and wave cannons stored there until Mr. Pendulum dragged him out by the collar. But it was the catacombs underneath the Septemberist headquarters that he really loved playing in.

Like the statue of Heracles that guarded their entrance, the catacombs had always creeped Archie out a little, but fascinated him too. The catacombs were where the Society stored all the bones from the monsters they had fought over the centuries. Not the bones of Mangleborn like the Swarm Queen or the Deceiver in the Dark. Mangleborn were immortal — or at least no one had figured out how to kill one yet. The bones in the catacombs were Manglespawn. Creatures descended from the Mangleborn. Monsters that did their masters' bidding. The Septemberists could handle Manglespawn. Usually. But to deal with the Mangleborn, the Septemberists needed the superhuman powers of the League of Seven.

Archie ran through the maze of crypts, ducking and hiding and shooting at pretend minions. Kzzz kzzz kzzz. He was Theseus — but not in the labyrinth fighting a man-sized minotaur. That's not what had really happened. Archie's parents had taught him the real story. He was Theseus, fighting the twenty-story-tall Mangleborn Lesool Eshar, the Deceiver in the Dark. A giant with bull horns and cloven feet who could make you see things that weren't real — like make you think you were in a dark, claustrophobic labyrinth when you were actually in the wide-open grasslands of Afrika. The minotaur was the popular version. The safe version. The truth — that there was a race of misshapen giants imprisoned inside the earth and under the sea — was a little too much for most people to handle.

People didn't want to know there really were monsters in the world.

"Theseus!" Mr. Rivets' voice boomed in the underground passageways. "Theseus! I come for you!"

Mr. Rivets made a pretty good Mangleborn in their backyard adventures. He was tall, for one thing, almost six and a half feet from his brass spats to his painted black bowler hat. He was heavy too — almost a thousand pounds — so that his clockwork legs made an impressive chi-koom chi-koom chi-koom sound when he walked. Where any illusion of a monster broke down was in his face, with its shining glass eyes and brass handlebar moustache shaped into a smile.

Archie crept through the dark tunnels, lit here and there by flickering gaslights. Shadow flames played on the stacks of crypt-like boxes set into the walls. Archie kept his toy aether pistol raised, ready to jump out at Mr. Rivets as soon as he heard the soft tick-tock of his clockworks. Water dripped slowly from the ceiling nearby as he held his breath, listening. Drip. Drip. Drip.


Archie leaped around the corner. "Ha-HA!"

But it wasn't Mr. Rivets. It was ... something else. Something black and shiny and big, bigger than Archie, with too many legs and too many eyes and a curled, segmented tail with a thick stinger at the end. It hung on a thick nest of white web that covered the corridor in front of him from floor to ceiling. It wasn't a giant spider or a giant scorpion or — were those human hands under there? It wasn't a spider or a scorpion or a person but something in between. Something unnatural. Something monstrous.

Something Manglespawn.

"Oh, slag."

The thing looked up at Archie with its dozens of eyes, and he realized he was still pointing the toy raygun at it. He lowered it, his hand shaking. He wanted to step back, to turn and run, but he was too scared. His feet wouldn't move.

At the base of the web, near the floor, a small ball of webbing shook like something inside it was trying to get out. Archie watched as a little stinger like the one on the big daddy-Manglespawn tore through the web ball, and a baby Manglespawn clawed its way out. It landed upside down on the stone floor, righted itself, and scrabbled toward Archie. Scritch scritch scritch scritch.


Excerpted from The League of Seven by Alan Gratz. Copyright © 2014 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

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The research and writing activities below correlate to the following Common Core State Standards: (L.4-8.4) (RL.5-8.4) (RL.5-6.5) (RL.6-8.6) (RL.4-8.7) (SL.4-8.1, 3) (W.4-8.2, 7) (WHST 6-8.6)
Go to the library or online to learn more about the literary subgenre of steampunk. Find at least three sources for your information. Use your research to create an informative poster that includes a definition of steampunk, a short history of the origin of the genre, and a list of some famous steampunk novels and/or movies.
The setting of a novel can loosely be defined as the time and place in which the story unfolds. In The League of Seven, the setting is an alternate history wherein some major world events took different turns—and yielded different outcomes—than they did in readers’ reality. Alone or in small groups, identify events, geographical names, inventions, and historical figures that are represented differently in the novel than they are in your history books. Create a booklet entitled “A Guide to the Alternate History of The League of Seven,” including maps; alternative biographies of historical figures, nations, and Native American tribal groups; short descriptions of specialized technologies, means of transportation and other elements that are familiar yet different from the reality of the reader’s world.
Go to the library or online to learn about ways the number seven, featured in the novel’s title, has significance in many cultures. Consider researching the legendary Irish warrior Cuchulain, the Seven Gods of Good Fortune in Japanese mythology, or the biblical account of seven days of creation. With classmates or friends, create a mural, large mobile, or sculpture depicting the significance of seven across cultures and times.
Go to the library or online to research the sources of one or more past League of Seven members to which Archie refers throughout the novel, such as Heracles, Hippolyta, Theseus, or Wayland [the] Smith. Write a one-page report comparing the history of this character as found in your research with the portrayal of the character in the novel.
“Square cogs” and “clinker” are just two of the many slang expressions specific to the world of The League of Seven. Make a set of at least a dozen flash cards featuring unusual terms from the novel. Test the “League” vocabulary of friends or classmates by quizzing them with the flashcards.
Create a PowerPoint or other multimedia presentation describing the origins of the League of Seven; the specific roles its members fill; the various individuals who filled these roles in the past; and the responsibilities of the Septemberists to the League.
Read a biography of Thomas Edison and/or Nicola Tesla. Then, prepare a brief oral report about their lives, relationship, and contributions to science, followed by an explanation of how these legendary thinkers of our history were changed in the alternate world of The League of Seven.
Imagine you are Mr. or Mrs. Dent (Archie’s dad or mom) before the attack of the Manglespawn bugs, working on propaganda to keep the public safe. Create a colorful, annotated poster to help ordinary people remember why “lektricity” is dangerous.
Imagine you are one of a handful of Septemberists who has not fallen victim to the Swarm Queen’s mind-controlling neck bugs. Write a letter to “Any Healthy Septemberist Out There,” describing your understanding of what the bugs are doing and how they might be stopped. Include at least two black-and-white sketches with your letter.
If you could travel to the world of The League of Seven, what place would you most like to see or which invention would you most like to use? Would you stop in New Rome or Brasil? Would you ship yourself somewhere via pneumatic post? Create an outline-style travel itinerary for a visit to this alternate world. Share and compare your itinerary with those of friends or classmates.
In the character of Fergus or Hachi, write at least four journal entries, including one recounting your first meeting with Archie; one discussing your life before joining the battle against Edison; one in which you consider whether Archie’s revelations about the Septemberists and the League of Seven are true; and one in which you ponder what will happen to you and your new friends after the final scene of the novel.
In the character of Archie, write a journal entry reflecting on your recent adventures and describing your struggles with your newly-discovered identities as an adopted child, as a possible Manglespawn, and, perhaps worst of all, as the “shadow” member of a new League of Seven.
Using information from the novel, create a logo and slogan for the new LEAGUE OF SEVEN of which Archie, Hachi, and Fergus are all a part. And/or write a HELP WANTED advertisement describing the “open positions” in the new League and the abilities these jobs will require.
Author Alan Gratz commented that he began writing The League of Seven by “listing all the things that ten-year-old Alan would have thought were awesome…” What do you think is awesome? Make a list of at least a dozen objects, images, place names, and phrases that pique your interest. Inspired by this list, write a 1-3 paragraph story idea, and a suggested title and genre (such as steampunk, fantasy, picture book, or graphic novel) you feel would best suit your concept.

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