Steampunk and time travel combine to provide pizazz in this series opener about a long-lost royal brother and sister, the surviving Romanovs.
Action dominates as time travelers called Rifters, both legitimate and rogue, compete. The official group operates from the Tesla Institute, where the famed scientist’s brain sits in a contraption that keeps it alive. The rogue time travelers, known as the Hollows, flit through time simply to steal objects they can sell. The groups, sworn enemies, frequently engage in hand-to-hand combat whenever they meet. Hollows Rifter Lex and “Tesla kid” Ember find each other when Lex’s girlfriend dies on a mission and Lex decides to risk causing a paradox in order to go back to save her. To fix the paradox, he’ll need a device that’s hidden in the Tesla Institute. Ficklin and Jolley handle the rather intricate plotline well, populating the time stream with interesting characters that pop up in various unexpected places. Their action scenes sometimes become a bit too intricate, as the authors describe every punch, kick, roll and jump, but they do keep the story moving along briskly. The steampunk scenario adds a great deal of zest to the proceedings, with top hats, leather corsets and a variety of steam-driven contrivances providing set dressing.
Kids who pick it up won’t encounter much real history, but they’ll be reading it for fun anyway. (Steampunk. 12 & up)