Bemis continues to mine rich elements of folklore and tall tales in the second installment of the Clockwork Dark series. Ray and those he joined to fight the evil Gog have established a haven in the Great Smokey Mountains. However, there is little time for domestic tranquility and still much to do to keep the evil unleashed at bay. Ray has come into his own as a Rambler, a heroic role shared by his father. This means he will have to journey to investigate the darkness emanating from Gog's still-threatening machine. His sister is convinced their father is still alive and assumes a more integral part of the story. Their friend Conker, the son of John Henry, feared lost, may have survived and could still retrieve what they need from the legendary Wolf Tree. Multiple threads of plot keep the action moving, and the large cast of characters, both realistic and mythic, sometimes challenges readers but is ultimately successfully managed. Aspects of various cultures are woven together, giving the narrative a unique yet grounded flavor. (Steampunk. 9-12)
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Gr 6-9--The Wolf Tree is a busy book with multiple characters, frenetic action, and a hodgepodge of plot points. It's part steampunk, part American tall tale, and part pseudo-Native American legend. The story begins with readers learning that Conker, John Henry's son who was thought to have died in The Nine Pound Hammer (Random, 2009) is alive, having been saved by Redfeather's magical copper necklace. The siren, Jolie (who also disappeared at the end of book one), takes him to a secret spring to nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, Nat, Si, Buck, Marisol, Ray, and the children they rescued from the Pitch Dark Train are living an idyllic life in the Smoky Mountains. Ray finishes his training and becomes a full-fledged Rambler. Life is reasonably comfortable until a dying stranger with pasty gray skin and motor oil in place of his blood comes to Shuckstack speaking of a terrible Darkness that is consuming the towns of the prairies. Ray and Marisol leave to investigate the Darkness, and Sally, Ray's sister, leaves to try and find her father. Meanwhile Conker and Jolie are trying to find the Nine Pound Hammer in order to repair it with wood from the fabled Wolf Tree that is a path into the spirit world. It is the only weapon that can destroy the Gog's evil Machine, which is causing the Darkness. Ultimately there is too much happening, and it is difficult to invest in either the characters or the story line. Recommended only where the first book is popular.--Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO[Page 100]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Gr 5-8--Part American tall tale and part steampunk, John Claude Bemis's sequel (2010) to The Nine-Pound Hammer (2009, both Random; Listening Library, 2009) begins with a party for Nel's birthday. The festivities are cut short when a stranger appears with a horrible story. There is a force known as the Darkness that is spreading a terrible disease. People are turning gray and bleeding oil before they die. At various intervals, members of Nel's medicine show set out to discover the cause of the illness and to figure out a way to stop it from spreading. Meanwhile, Conker, John Henry's son, has awakened from near death and he and the half-siren Jolie set out to restore the handle of his father's nine-pound hammer. Their quests will all culminate with the search for the mythical Wolf Tree, which is guarded by the half-wolf/half-human rougarou. The Gog has not been fully destroyed and remaking the hammer with wood from the Wolf Tree is the key to his ultimate destruction. John H. Mayer's voice is too old for this story and not nuanced enough for such a varied cast of characters. The story switches frequently between pairs of characters, which doesn't translate well to audio, and lovely musical interludes don't always fit the tone of the chapters they introduce. Purchase only where the first book is popular.--Necia Blundy, Marlborough Public Library, MA[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.