History, steampunk, and fantasy abound in the third installment of the Section 13 series.
Readers new to it would fare best by starting with The Lost Property Office (2016) and The Fourth Ruby (2017). Protagonist Jack is reeling, with his father in a coma and himself on trial, accused by the villainous Undersecretary for Things Unknown at the Ministry of Secrets, Ignatius Gall. Gall claims Jack is in violation of Section Eight, “the mixing of tracker bloodlines,” and demands that he be “destroyed” and the Ministry of Trackers disbanded. While the trial is adjourned, Jack still struggles to control both his “sparks,” the memories he sees trapped in objects, and his new skill of conjuring fire. Accompanied by companion Gwen, he decides to seek the “zed,” an artifact that could possibly cure Jack’s father. Eventually their search leads them to China and the hope that they may thwart Gall’s quest for immortality. The packed plot has a quick pace, but that results in quick resolutions and a lack of suspense. Gwen is white, and there’s nothing made of white-presenting Jack’s iota of Mongolian heritage, revealed in the previous book. There is diversity in secondary characters, and the second half of the story takes place in China, and here the book falters culturally. Hannibal stretches Chinese history with Jack’s claim that the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, became a “raving lunatic,” and, regrettably, the most prominent Asian character, the biracial (Asian/white) Liu Fai, is a math champion.
Relentless action will either entertain or overwhelm readers. (Adventure. 8-12)