In this YA fantasy debut, a lonely boy discovers that his fate is tied to a hidden realm.
Peter Huddleston, 12, spends his time alone, reading comics and mystery novels, eating candy and throwing his boomerang. He has taken the death of his mother, Patricia, quite hard and doesn’t enjoy other kids’ company. His father has since remarried, and his stepmother’s penchants for bland food and the color beige only depress him more. Now that school has ended, Peter has been roaming his small world, and the neighbors see him and his boomerang as a menace. When his father tells him that he must spend the summer at his maternal aunt Gillian’s home, Hillside Manor, he thinks the worst. The lavish property, however, shocks Peter from his doldrums; it has an animal preserve, a museum, a library—and leads to Galadria, the Golden Realm. Gillian explains to the boy that she—along with Peter’s mother, when she was still alive—rules this magical world as the leader of the House of Willowbrook. More astoundingly, Peter is next in line to rule! But the slimy Knor, of the House of Shadowray, says that Peter isn’t fit for the throne. Can he complete the four Rites of Passage and ensure Willowbrook’s reign? Debut novelist de Leon begins his trilogy right, transporting readers with animated prose and colorful ideas. He captures the adolescent mind perfectly, as when Peter envisions life with his aunt, where he “would probably have to floss years of dried, chewed up prunes from her crusty dentures.” During the dangerous Rites of Passage, Peter is aided by enchanted Creamers, which, when eaten, imbue him with magical abilities (a far cry from the horrendous amount of junk food he eats in the story’s first half). A spark of maturity resonates when Gillian tells her nephew, “I ask you to agree to a life of great privilege and great responsibility.” Overall, this adventure does everything the first portion of a trilogy should—except reveal Galadria. de Leon mischievously pushes readers toward Part 2.
A resounding success that will have audiences begging for more.