In series opener The Mesmer Menace (2014), the Kennewickett clan foiled the world-conquering plans of the evil pigeon Iron Claw and mesmerizing magician Madini, but recent acts of sabotage at the Automated Inn suggest the dastardly duo have returned to commit more mayhem.
At risk are Nikola Tesla, who plans to use alternating current to free automatons from spending their nights in charging closets, and young Wally, who’s making progress toward achieving manned flight (by kite, but still). Offering their skills and component parts to end the sabotage permanently are the automatons, led by Gizmo, who shares recipes (and feelings of more than ordinary friendship) with Mr. Jones, the train engineer. This sequel grants the automatons, especially the singing Dust Bunnies, more page time, which they must share with a plethora of human characters and fairly detailed accounts of electrical current discoveries. Narrating the proceedings, Noodles, Wally’s dachshund, interrupts the storytelling with canine asides and offers dictionary definitions of words like “pseudo-cephalothorax” and “inveigle.” Expressive and vigorous, the art brings the characters to life (the evildoers with handlebar mustaches are a treat). Although much of the story never leaves the inn, the complicated plot and setup require close attention.
The swift pace, quirky humor, and general steampunkery should hold the interest of readers—especially the mechanically and electronically inclined. (Steampunk. 9-12)