What Happens Next? A Review of S. S. Taylor’s The Expeditioners

S. S. Taylor, The Expeditioners, illustrated by Katherine Roy (2012)When will the next book in the series be published?

This was my first thought upon finishing S. S. Taylor’s The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon (McSweeney’s McMullens, 2012). It’s a mystery-adventure-fantasy set in a dystopian parallel universe, where four children seek the answers to a mysterious map, as they evade agents of a corrupt American government, and uncover more mysteries along the way.

I don’t want to give too much away here, but — as in any good mystery — the book has a strong narrative drive, keeping you wondering what will happen next.  In the first chapter, Kit (the narrator) gets chased through a marketplace, and then caught by a man with a clockwork hand. The man gives him a package that seems to have come from Kit’s late father.  And that’s all of the plot I’m going to tell you.

The main characters — two boys, two girls — are fully realized, and I was particularly pleased to note that both of the female protagonists are strong and smart.  The secondary characters are also credible, including Leo and Lazlo Nackley, a powerful father and sneering son who reminded me a little of Lucius and Draco Malfoy. There’s Mr. Mountmorris, a Machiavellian and frog-like historian, who… ah, I again feel I should resist the impulse to describe him further.

On Facebook, my friend Marah Gubar compared The Expeditioners to Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society (2007), suggesting that those who enjoyed that novel will also like this one.  She’s right. I would also add that The Expeditioners is faster-paced, and pulls you in more swiftly than Stewart’s book. Taylor — who I have known for about a dozen years — honed her narrative craft as a mystery writer (for adults), and this well-plotted tale clearly benefits from that experience.

When my two-year-old niece is about seven, I will definitely be adding this book to Emily’s Library. I think she’ll enjoy it. If you love mystery and adventure, you’ll enjoy The Expeditioners, too.

5 Comments »

  1. Alya Said,

    September 18, 2013 @ 11:43 am

    I totally agree with your review! I read this book a few weeks ago and had the same response, wanting to know what happens next. I was also very taken with the map on the inside cover. The story had me flipping back forth numerous times to trace the kids’ progress and unfold other… mysteries. I find something very engaging and exciting about maps though; maybe it’s just me.

  2. Marah Gubar Said,

    September 20, 2013 @ 9:54 pm

    Thanks for this review, Phil (and your thought-provoking piece on adjuncts, too). I would add that I thought THE EXPEDITIONERS was physically beautiful, as well as gripping–I loved everything about its design, the illustrations, and the way it felt in my hands.

  3. Philip Nel Said,

    September 21, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

    Thanks, Marah and Alya! And extra thanks to Marah for mentioning the art and design. The maps are beautiful, the illustrations evocative, and the design pleasing to both hands and eyes. I should have mentioned that in my review, and have been regretting my omission. Good of you to call attention to it.

  4. rebell Said,

    September 22, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

    we gave this book to our 10 year old grandson, he loved loved it, wants to know when the next one is coming our, as he told us it leaves off with another map.

  5. Deana Said,

    August 5, 2014 @ 2:18 am

    I just finished reading the Expeditioners and I found it was good twist on the mystery meets fantasy books. I enjoyed the characters and the plot . I too also found that Leo and Lazlo Nackley very much reminded of Lucius and Draco Malfoy. I like the futurestic feel to the book but still have some past history of the Americas . I look forward to the second book… I found the Steampunk ideas very exciting and look forward to see this academy that is mentioned in the end. I have read many books and find this book to be different in its ideas and plots. Look forward to reading more…

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