A tween book review of the new middle-grade fiction action-adventure book Legends of the Lost Causes—which stars zombie outlaws and a ragtag gang of orphans.
We love fantasy novels around here. Give us a little magic and adventure and we. are. there. Well, this week, a brand new middle-grade fantasy novel hit bookshelves. And this one has an interesting twist: it’s set in the Wild West! I was intrigued.
Legends of the Lost Causes is the first book in a new series by debut authors Brad McLelland and Louis Sylvester. Here’s a summary from the publisher:
“A band of orphan avengers. A cursed stone. A horde of zombie outlaws.
This is Keech Blackwood’s new life after Bad Whiskey Nelson descends upon the Home for Lost Causes and burns it to the ground.
With his home destroyed and his family lost, Keech will have to use the lessons he learned from Pa Abner to hunt down the powerful Char Stone. Luckily, he has the help of a ragtag team of orphans. Together, they’ll travel through treacherous forests, fight off the risen dead, and discover that they share mysterious bonds as they search for the legendary stone. Now it’s a race against the clock, because if Bad Whiskey finds the stone first… all is lost.”
Since my 11-year-old daughter has been deep into fantasy novels lately (Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are constantly battling it out to be her faves), I jumped at the chance to have her review this one when Macmillan offered to send us a copy. I was really interested to see how the Western aspect of it would work for her. Here’s what she had to say.
What did you think about Legends of the Lost Causes?
It was very good. I liked the way it was written. The words the author used were cool. It’s written in Old Western slang. The characters are called like Bad Whiskey and Pa and Ma and stuff like that. I like that language. It’s kind of cool to hear it.
Can you give us a brief synopsis?
Keech is an orphan. He lives with a few other orphans and his Pa and his Gram—but they’re not his actual grandparents, they run the orphanage he lives at and he has “brothers” and “sisters” there too. Their Pa has a secret that he doesn’t tell them. One day that secret brings really bad luck. The villain Bad Whiskey comes to the orphanage to ask Keech’s Pa about something (Pa makes sure the kids don’t hear it) and some bad stuff happens.
Keech has to set out alone to find Bad Whiskey and wants to send him and his friends “to their doom.” Along the way, he meets a gang of other people that Bad Whiskey has done wrong to. He decides to ride with them. He trusts them and they become good friends. I don’t want to tell you too much more because I don’t want to give anything away.
What did you think about the setting?
I thought it was cool to read about the Wild West and it was interesting because I can’t exactly relate to it. If it took place in New York City and was talking about the Empire State Building, I would really be able to picture it. But talking about haunted forests and graveyards is harder for me to visualize—and that’s not a bad thing. They were traveling by horse so they had to stop for water and they couldn’t go up steep hills. It’s so different from my life.
I did like it though. I thought it was really cool, it was just hard to relate to what the characters were going through.
Could you relate to the characters at all?
No. Not at all. They were orphans and they were all determined to find this villain who hurt someone they loved. That’s not a bad thing though. I couldn’t relate to what the characters were going through in Harry Potter either. It’s fun to try to imagine yourself in this whole different world.
Who was your favorite character? Why?
My favorite character was Duck because Duck is the only girl in the gang. The rest of the gang don’t find this out until later. She had her hair cut short and a hat on and stuff. Her twin brother didn’t want to make things more difficult because riding with kids was hard enough, but if everyone knew she was a girl it would be even more difficult. I liked that when they found out, no one cared.
Who would you recommend this book for?
If you’re interested in historical fiction you’ll really like it.
I give it four out of five stars! I really liked it, but I sort of wish we had more backstory about some of the other characters.
What grownups are saying…
“McLelland and Sylvester imbue the adventure with a Louis L’Amour-esque flair refreshed for today’s readers by the thoughtful incorporation of American frontier history and Osage culture. This is an easy read for fans of Westerns like Bowman’s Vengeance Road.” ―The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Cowriters McLelland and Sylvester incorporate aspects of Osage culture and legend into this action-packed series starter. Part western, part zombie flick, this pits scrappy, resourceful kids against some menacing villains―always a recipe for success.” ―Booklist
“The Old West lingo-laden dialogue is pitch-perfect―not to mention contagious. It’s rare to see a Western in middle grade fiction―especially one that, like this one, eliminates some of the genre’s more harmful stereotypes of Native populations… [this] will surely gain more than a few young fans.” ―School Library Journal
Enter to win a copy of Legends of the Lost Causes!
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group has been kind enough to offer one lucky Cuddles & Chaos reader a copy of Legends of the Lost Causes. You can enter through the Rafflecopter below between now and March 1, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST. The giveaway is open to US/Canada only (sorry!).
Please note that you can get bonus entries by tweeting the message in the Rafflecopter once a day!
For more book picks, check out our On Our Bookshelf series and our list of 30 Picture Books Your Family Is Guaranteed to Love.
Macmillan Children’s Book Publishing provided us with a copy of the book for review but all opinions are our own.