In this debut YA fantasy, a 10-year-old boy learns that the secret of his new hometown lies with the strange disappearances of two families centuries ago.
When George Mutton’s expectant mom decides she needs more bedrooms to accommodate her twin babies, the family moves to Mount Dusk. With a 50-person population, the town doesn’t afford much opportunity for George to make friends, but he finds a confidant in Charlie Redwin. George is fascinated by Mount Dusk’s enigmatic history, which entails a couple of families vanishing back in 1795. Even more intriguing is the fact that the Muttons reside in the home of one of those clans, the affluent Regales, while George later learns the other family, comprising circus/magic performers, was the Redwins. Turns out Charlie’s not-very-nice Uncle Hubert may have used a spell to imprison Regale souls somewhere on the mountain. In order to free the souls, George and Charlie will need a Redwin spell book, with incantations that only work when recited by a Redwin descendant. The two reluctantly team up with George’s intermittently whiny little sister, Maggie, who can hopefully earn the trust of Charlie’s twin, Yvonne, who has seemingly sided with her nefarious uncle. If the kids can find a way around Hubert’s ghostly Redwin Guards, they may have a chance at saving the Regales. The story thrives entirely on George’s perspective: in his eyes, his carpenter father’s a klutz and 7-year-old Maggie’s clearly “a spoilt brat.” Thankfully, George is a smashing protagonist, sympathetic to Maggie post-tantrum and, though initially seeking adventure, ultimately risking his safety to help the trapped Regales. Taylor retains genuine mystery by shrouding Mount Dusk in ambiguity, its specific location unrevealed. There are likewise a couple of bombshells regarding links between characters as well as a surprising villain and an ally or two. Hubert, the unquestionable baddie, remains spiteful and eerily furtive (going who knows where every night) but manages to be creepier still when he’s a perfect gentleman in front of Mrs. Mutton. The ending promises more Mount Dusk secrets to come—and sequels.
Readers should gladly follow this tale’s young hero, whether he’s facing evil spells or a typical childhood.