In this YA fantasy/alternative-history adventure, a girl and her friends face danger when a villain demands an inventor’s plans.
Some months ago, 12-year-old Tee discovered an awesome three-level treehouse equipped with a weighted rope-and-pulley system to fly up from the main road and zip back down. She and her best friends, Elly and Richy, who call themselves the Yellow Hoods for the bright cloaks they wear, love hanging out together in the treehouse, where there’s always something new and improved to discover or tinker with, such as the weapons they call shock sticks. There is some disagreement about where these things come from: Tee’s grandfather Nikolas Klaus, a master inventor? Magic? Elves? Klaus’ creations bring him to the attention of Simon St. Malo, a jealous rival inventor. Believing that Klaus has invented a steam engine, St. Malo hires Andre LeLoup to wrest the plans from him. St. Malo “probably means to transport huge numbers of cannons and soldiers,” Klaus muses. Obviously, LeLoup must be stopped. Though initially thwarted, he’s a dangerous man with tricks up his sleeve; the Yellow Hoods and Klaus, with their inventions, along with the Cochon brothers (Bakon, Bore, and Squeals) and some other players, plot to run LeLoup out of town. In his debut novel, Dreece mixes clever fairy-tale references (to, for example, “The Three Little Pigs”—LeLoup, the Cochon brothers) with intriguing contraptions, appealing characters, snide villains, humor, and an exciting story. At times, Dreece gets overly cute and giggly, especially in scenes between Tee and her grandfather, and the Yellow Hoods are somewhat interchangeable. But LeLoup’s gradual psychological disintegration is a highlight, handled with some real insight into the effect of failure on arrogance. Dreece also weaves in a touching romance between Bakon and Egelina-Marie, a town guard. Abandoned as a child, Bakon has come to believe he’s just a lowlife, but Egelina-Marie “inspired him and made him feel more solid inside.” Questions are left unanswered but may find resolution in the four books that will follow.
A very promising series opener featuring a young heroine and her pals that should win fans.