In Wells (Stories of the Raksura, 2015, etc.) and De Orive’s (SHARD RPG Basic Compendium, 2009) YA fantasy, a teenager travels to a volatile, magical realm populated by elves and trolls and featuring an enchanted blade.
Seventh-grader Manny Boreaux lives with his aunt, Licha, in Austin, Texas. Six months ago, his parents died in a car accident, and that fact weighs him down. At school, he steals a handheld video game belonging to a bully, which gets him in trouble with his aunt. She decides that Manny should speak with Father Diego, but Manny dodges the meeting and visits Beltran’s Discount Books instead, where he finds a 350-year-old copy of a book titled The Blade Singer by Auberon Fae. He opens the book and a gold coin falls out. After he flips the coin, he’s transported into the body of a street urchin named Remy in a city in the kingdom of Aquitania. Manny soon realizes that Remy isn’t human—he’s a Sidhe, one of the faery folk. Because of his goblinlike appearance, sentries chase him around the city of Lutetia until an elfin swordsman named Etienne—who looks just like Manny’s deceased father—rescues him. Later, Manny encounters the thief Adriana, who looks like his mother, and she reveals to him the Fae Undercity, which is ruled by the evil crone Morrigan. Wells and De Orive, in their first YA collaboration, build a winning redemption saga using the sturdiest elements of the fantasy genre: magically powered elves, a bedeviling city filled with intrigue, and a royal line in peril. Etienne’s sword has a name (“Amechanteur”), and when it’s wielded by someone whose “cause is just and...heart is true,” it makes that person a “champion without equal.” The story of Manny’s journey in Remy’s body allows for nuanced introspection; for example, Adriana tells him that “Sidhe who are done ill, or who do ill by others, start to change, their appearance reflecting what’s inside.” Readers will be eager to see if Manny embraces the hero’s role, even if he doesn’t look the part. The satisfying resolution involves a clever cameo from Arthurian legend.
A sophisticated, tightly paced YA swashbuckler.