Youth Reads: The League and the Lantern


Jake Herndon is ready for a do-over. With a terrible sixth-grade year behind him, he’s hoping for better things from seventh grade. But he gets a lot more than he bargained for when he meets up with his new classmates for a special sleepover event at a local museum.

Jake is on a scavenger hunt with two other kids, T.J. and Lucy, when the event is crashed by intruders searching for a set of priceless historical artifacts, and willing to do anything to get them. Even worse, it looks like the police might be colluding with the bad guys. The three kids flee to Jake’s apartment, but what they finds there takes them further into the heart of a thrilling but dangerous historical mystery — and a heritage Jake never knew he had.

The League and the Lantern” by Brian Wells is the first book in a projected adventure series for middle-schoolers. The story is fast-paced and exciting, with even apparent detours and tangents containing key pieces of the puzzle. There’s a strong focus on Civil War history and the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, which young history buffs will enjoy, and from which readers in general will learn some very interesting facts.

Although the characterizations aren’t particularly deep, the kids do show some character growth over the course of the story. T.J. starts out as dismissive to the point of rudeness toward Lucy (consistently getting the name of her country, Nepal, wrong), but the two eventually come to respect each other. And Jake draws on unexpected reserves of intelligence and resourcefulness as the “quest” he always wanted finally shows up on his doorstep.

The quest itself takes some strange sci-fi twists and turns, and I found the ultimate goal of the enemy, once it was revealed, a little unrealistic and unconvincing even for sci-fi. Still, the story as a whole is a well-plotted, enjoyable ride that should keep young action-adventure readers happy.

Wells is a Christian author, and his worldview manifests itself in themes about the ethical problems with cloning, slavery, and killing, as well as some fun “Easter eggs” like clues involving Bible verses. There are no content issues except for some action-movie-type violence, which shouldn’t be too much for the middle-school target audience to handle.

For related content and a sneak preview of the first six chapters of “The League and the Lantern,” kids and parents can visit Wells’ website. For many, it will be the start of an exciting adventure in reading.

Image copyright Republic Ink. Review copy courtesy of the author.

Gina Dalfonzo is editor of and Dickensblog, and the author of “One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church” (Baker, June 2017).

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