*I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher with request to review. This does not impact the content of my review.*

Legends of the Lost Causes by Brad McLelland and Louis SylvesterBook: Legends of the Lost Causes (#1)
Author: Brad McLelland & Louis Sylvester
Published: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers (An imprint of MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group)
Genre: Middle Grade Adventure (suggested for ages 10-14)
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher


The first book in a new middle-grade fantasy action-adventure series set in the Old West.

A band of orphan avengers. A cursed stone. A horde of zombie outlaws. This is Keech Blackwood’s new life after Bad Whiskey Nelson descends upon the Home for Lost Causes and burns it to the ground.

With his home destroyed and his family lost, Keech will have to use the lessons he learned from Pa Abner to hunt down the powerful Char Stone. Luckily, he has the help of a ragtag team of orphans. Together, they’ll travel through treacherous forests, fight off the risen dead, and discover that they share mysterious bonds as they try to track down the legendary stone. Now, it’s a race against the clock, because if Bad Whiskey finds the stone first. . . . all is lost. (Goodreads)

My rating: 4 stars
It was lovely. Definitely recommend.


A wild ride in the wild west! This book is fun read and an adventure that’s only just beginning.

The first few chapters of this book set the stage with smart, empathetic, flawed characters. Keech is a kind tween boy who loves his adopted family with his whole heart. And when they are taken from him, he wants justice for them and wants to finish what his Pa trained him for. Throughout the book he remembers lessons his Pa taught him and uses those skills and concepts to aid the other orphans he’s teamed up with. He also messes up a few times, acts or speaks before he thinks, or doesn’t do what he’s told. He is, after all, a thirteen-year-old kid.

I adored stories set in the 1850s, wild west, settlers, and such when I was a young reader. As soon as I started reading this book I was brought back to the books of my youth (although those didn’t contain a horde of undead). The historical aspects of the book are done really well and bring it to life in a way that most young readers will be able to understand. Unlike many wild west books, the aboriginal characters and culture are treated with respect throughout the story.

To jump back to the horde of undead – I don’t usually like zombie stories, but this one does the zombie thing cleanly, simply, and without the usual gore. The zombies are not completely mindless brain-eaters, they are raised corpses that exist to do their master’s bidding. They can still speak and still experience fear. While they may be scary to some middle grade readers, most older elementary readers will likely be fine with them as the bad guys.

On top of the adventure of chasing outlaws, Lost Causes is full of mystery.

The story flows well, gives only as much information as the reader (and Keech) need to get to the next chapter. Who is Pa Abner really? Who were Keech’s birth parents? Who is Whiskey and how does he know Pa? What’s the Char Stone? What will happen if Reverend Rose beats them to it?

Only complaint – not enough girls and women.

There is a grand total of three named female characters in this book. Four if you count Keech’s long dead mom. The first two of the female characters are an annoying little sister and a granny/housekeeper who are only part of the story for the first few chapters.

Despite this, the book is an entertaining read and will likely appeal to any reader who like historical adventures and kids solving mysteries and saving the day.

I’m intrigued and will definitely seek out the next book in the series when it comes out.

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