This YA fantasy by the author of Captain Silverspoons (2015) features a teenager who’s transported to a magical realm where dark forces gather.
Fifteen-year-old Jason Greaves lives with his Aunt Florence in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In school, he frequently daydreams about fantasy worlds filled with fabulous creatures. On the way home from school one day, he enters an enticing derelict building near Cavehill Forest Park. Inside, he falls through a pit into an elaborate, blue-lit chamber in which he finds a large gem. Handling it causes him to travel to the realm of Haspaira, populated by elves, trolls, wizards, and others. Wandering through the Elderine Forests, he encounters some elves who escort him to their home, Glen Tirel; there he meets Lord Elindril, who tells him there’s no way to send him home. Meanwhile, the wizard Aber Talathin and his teenage granddaughter, Emily, travel to Glen Tirel to discuss the rise of the Dark Lady, a sorceress from outside the realm. Prophecies indicate that a hero will turn back her spreading evil. This noble feat would make the hero beloved throughout the kingdom—which is why Prince Devon Drake insists on tackling the Dark Lady himself. Lawson rests his new YA series upon pillars that will be familiar to fans of the medieval fantasy genre, including a humorous sidekick (Sherbit the imp), a march into treacherous mountain terrain, and an all-powerful Lord of Darkness who remains deep in the background. (Also, Jason’s father is dead, his mother has vanished, and his aunt treats him resentfully.) And yet, when Elindril speaks to Jason “as though he was worthy of attention, as though he mattered,” it adds emotional thrust to Jason’s heroism. Lawson’s prose is geared toward younger readers, but a stronger edit might have helped at times (“Several woman were plotted around the room”). Occasional religious commentary, via an organization called the New Order, lends the narrative a more adult slant.
A bouncy adventure that threatens to darken in later volumes.