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S. S. Taylor: The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon

10 Nov 2013 · No Comments

I wanted to love this book, and perhaps I didn’t because my expectations were too high. It’s published by an arm of McSweeney’s, and it features steampunk trappings, secret societies, cloak and dagger intrigue, a wide subversive streak, strong female characters, and subtle, but deliberate, I think, allusions to Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Becky, and the fantastic lost worlds of Verne, Burroughs, Doyle, et al — superficially, it sounds like it could have been tailor made for me. I did love Katherine Roy’s precise and evocative illustrations. Some of my dissatisfaction with the book probably accrues to middle grade targeting: I found the treatment of burgeoning romantic tensions decidedly hamfisted, for instance, but maybe it’s an appropriate amount of repetition for the intended audience. I also had suspension of disbelief issues with the world-building. But my biggest problem with it runs deeper: in the children’s books that I loved (and love) best — those by Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Madeleine L’Engle, C.S. Lewis and others — characters ultimately triumph over adversity because of who they fundamentally are. The Expeditioners relies too much for my taste on a school of overcoming obstacles that I also find unsatisfying in adventure games, a Chekhovian sort of problem solving: If a character finds a box with a button on it, there will be a situation requiring the button to be pressed.

Tags: children's · e-title · fantasy · t-author

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