cover image The Iron Thorn

The Iron Thorn

Caitlin Kittredge, Delacorte, $17.99 (512p) ISBN 978-0-385-73829-3

In her first book for young readers, urban fantasist Kittredge (the Nocturne City series) presents a fevered if somewhat unlikely mashup of steampunk, the Cthulhu mythos, and traditional fairy tale, set in an alternate 1950s America. Talented engineering student Aoife Grayson, the illegitimate daughter of a madwoman and a reclusive scholar, fully expects to go insane on her upcoming 16th birthday because, as her only friend Cal reminds her, "the Grayson line has bad blood. From the first infected on down," and it is clear that the Proctors, who rule the ghoul-haunted, necrovirus-stricken city of Lovecraft, are watching her closely. Fleeing Lovecraft, accompanied by Cal and Dean, her handsome but disreputable heretic guide, Aoife heads for Arkham and her father's ancestral mansion, intent on saving her mad brother, Conrad, from a hideous fate. There she discovers marvelous inventions, gruesome monsters, a complex plot that spans several worlds, and the secret of her own identity. Though the material borrowed from H.P. Lovecraft occasionally calls too much attention to itself, Kittredge generates significant thrills and chills in this fast-moving tale, first in a planned series. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)