In the middle volume of a planned trilogy, Bowditch’s Young Inventors Guild travels to an ancient Italian village, unearthing more questions than even an international team of geniuses can answer.
It’s 1903, and for a moment, Jasper, Lucy, Faye, Wallace and Noah (five brilliant children) have everything: longed-for parents who’ve magically returned to them, well-stocked labs, and their faithful teacher, Miss Brett. But the children are devastated when, whisked away by their darkly clad guardians, they see all they love explode. The story starts fast, generating many questions: Why is villain Komar Romak still after them? Why do their diaries vanish? And are the men in strange black garb friends or foes? Despite that quick start and some engaging ideas (explosive mirages, a meeting with Nikola Tesla, an escape in a ship-turned-submarine), the book slows when the travelers reach Solemano. There, the plot bogs down amid myriad details, including descriptions of a snowball fight and baked delicacies, childish squabbles, and unresolved emotional dramas (where have the children’s parents got to?). Like its guild members, this story seems to lack a clearly defined mission; there’s just too much for readers (especially those new to the series) to keep track of. The pace quickens in a suspenseful end that answers many questions but leaves others unresolved for the conclusion.
Despite an engaging start and intriguing finish, Book 2 suffers from an overloaded middle that lessens the punch of its plotline. (Fantasy. 11-13)