I’ve been a fan of Adam Dreece’s The Yellow Hoods series since I read the first book, Along Came a Wolf. The series has a fun, upbeat style, with some brilliant kids who get into all kinds of danger and have to use their ingenuity and a variety of unique inventions to survive. The series is labeled as “An Emergent Steampunk Series” because a lot of the steampunk technology we see in the books is brand new, being developed by the characters as the series progresses. It’s very interesting to see so many inventions being unveiled, rather than having a world where such things already exist.
This book focused a lot on a developing conflict where it seems the villains are planning to use their newly developed technology to start conquering less-developed nations. There’s also an interesting subplot where at least one kingdom has an old law that outlaws inventors and innovation, unless the inventors work for the government. This leads to a sort of secret society of inventors who have to keep their works hidden, for fear that they’ll be arrested for developing potentially dangerous technology. A lot of the tale is centered around a group of people trying to keep the plans for a new type of steam engine from falling into the wrong hands.
Compared to the previous books, All the King’s-Men takes on a bit of a darker tone. In Along Came a Wolf, the central main character, Tee, was a preteen girl who got into trouble with some unsavory characters, and she and her friends had to work together to save the day. By the time we reach the third book, the characters are a bit older, their enemies are more dangerous, and there are darker twists and more violence and bloodshed. The stakes are also a lot higher, with a war brewing, assassinations taking place, governments being overthrown, and betrayal around every corner.
The only complaint I have about this volume is that with the expansion of the conflict, it sometimes seems that there are too many characters and too many subplots, which makes it a bit harder to follow a central storyline. There were a few times where I started to mix a couple of characters up, simply because there were so many characters engaged in different branches of the plot. This didn’t detract from the writing style itself, which is quite strong. But it does make it so that All the King’s-Men works best as one bridge in an ongoing series, rather than as a standalone novel. It would definitely be best to pick up the first books in the series before this one, in order to keep up with everything that’s been going on.