Originally written in serial format, this novel of Victorian Maine is chock full of characters, plot lines, and just plain fun. As the subtitle implies, this is the first book in a series about the Moosepath League. However, instead of starting out focused on the creation of said club, it opens with Cordelia Underwood, a sweet, young, redheaded woman, finding out that she has inherited a parcel of untamed land land well to the north of Portland from her ship's captain uncle. This inheritance starts a whole crazy chain of events, including some that are ridiculously coincidental but somehow work in this wacky, madcap adventure story.
The Underwood family meets and befriends many strangers along the way as they travel north to examine Cordelia's property. Those strangers meet and befriend their own plethora of strangers and the connections and characters grow and grow. There are three goofy male characters who seem to be the literary equivalent of the Three Stooges. There's Tobias Walton, who becomes the leader de facto of the Moosepath League (not that this comes into existence until late in the book). There's the charming and ever-present John Benning. There's a circus bear who stands on her head, an ascentionist in a hot air balloon and an "attractive suit of tights." There's attraction and love. There's the rumor of buried treasure, a kidnapping, and a runaway horse carrying illegal booze. In short, this book is chock full of action and entertainment.
Because of the serial nature of the book, the chapters are short and often end with a teaser. Subsequent chapters often skip to another of the many characters in the book and to start with, this makes it very hard to differentiate between storylines (the characters themselves are all very different from each other) and to become fully engrossed in the story. But upon perseverance, the reader is richly rewarded as the climax of the novel nears and the seemingly disparate plot lines coem together to finish a delightful romp. Unlike many series books, this one feels complete in and of itself, not requiring the reader to go on to further books to feel a sense of closure. But I suspect that the main characters (Cordelia and her family) do not reappear in later Moosepath books, unless tangentially, and so their stories are full and satisfying when you come to the end of this first book. Walton and the three bumbling musketeers surely appear in later books but that doesn't detract from the wrap-up here. I will be eager to read the following books now that I've gotten into the groove of this one. I'm very interested to see what happens to the Moosepath League members next.