Monday, June 10, 2019

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race is another book I reviewed for the Excellence in Graphic Literature Awards. This one was fun for me for a few reasons. First off, it had a lot going on in a good way. Clem is the orphaned daughter of two archaeologists, only here the setting is a sort of extreme archaeology where drivers are given clues for treasure sites and then have to speed off in souped-up battle vehicles in order to be first to claim the prize. There are lots of competitors in interesting and deadly vehicles, and the event is cut-throat. For instance, there is one giant, armored battle wagon driven by large, sentient crocodiles. They are not to be taken lightly.
You would think that this race would not be the place for a young girl, but she has few prospects and is living hand-to-mouth. She also has specialized knowledge and skills. Clem is recruited (even though she is underage) to drive for the team led by her parents' former assistant, a shifty guy she had lost contact with. In the course of events, Clem learns some shocking secrets about him and his relationship with her parents, has to contend with the deadly Ironwood Race, and finds out that she is a pretty good extreme archaeologist. Also, she travels with her android brother named Digory who helps her along the way, and I very much liked their repartee and relationship.

There was much I liked about this book. It has a simple, sturdy plot. The characters are types of a sort, but they are engaging and easy to root for or boo. Best of all, the world and character designs really shine in the artwork, which features top-notch storytelling. This book left me breathless with its action sequences. It's a vibrant and exciting read.

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race was a collaboration between writer Jen Breach and artist Douglas Holgate. Breach has written a few comics and books, including the self-published Maralinga and Something's Amiss at the Zoo. Holgate is a frequent collaborator with Breach, and he has drawn a host of other comics and graphic novels, most notably the The Last Kids of Earth series.

All of the reviews I have read of this book have been positive. Kirkus Reviews summed it up as "Indiana Jones meets Mad Max in a whirlwind as exciting for teens as it is for middle-grade readers." Elizabeth Bush called this book's premise "an action-lover's dream." Patrick Hayes wrote, "As soon as I was done, I wanted to read more."

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race was published by Scholastic Graphix, and they offer a preview and more here. It is listed as a #1, so I hope we get to see more books in the series, though so far I have seen nothing solicited.

The publisher provided a review copy.

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