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SECRETS OF THE CROWN by Adam Jay Epstein


From the Familiars series, volume 2

by Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson illustrated by Peter ChanKei Acedera

Age Range: 7 - 11

Pub Date: Sept. 6th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-196111-3
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

This series’ second installment is a spiritless conglomeration of fantasy tropes.

Human magic is kaput, so the three loyals (human children) stay home while “the Prophesized Three” familiars—Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert—take center stage, journeying to fulfill their destiny. Skylar’s an illusion-casting blue jay, Gilbert a tree frog who occasionally sees visions in puddles, Aldwyn a telekinetic cat descended from a tribe “whose mental powers extended beyond that of mere telekinesis, to firestarting, mind control, and astral projection.” Except for the fact that Skylar flies and Aldwyn walks on all fours, they barely show animal traits; it’s easy to forget that these protagonists are animals at all. What’s harder is to think of any fantasy motifs that don’t appear. Danger is frequent but never actually dangerous (lose a finger? No worries, it’ll regenerate a couple pages later). Protective magic is overly convenient, solutions are too easy and a supposed surprise turncoat is telegraphed all along by his name, which starts with the syllable “Mal.” Even cartoon physics works here, sadly without irony or winks: An illusory bridge over a chasm “can even fool gravity and the laws of nature” as long as the familiars “don’t question its existence.” Frequent double-description makes the pace drag (“He felt drops of water running down his face. He was crying”).

This dull string of clichés offers nothing to invest in. (Fantasy. 7-11)