This pairing of the first two books in Verdelli’s planned six-part YA fantasy saga tells of gods, kings and kids from South Portland.
“Rise of Talus,” the first section of this book, recounts the story of a prince who learns from a series of shadowy soothsayers with questionable motives that his birthright has been robbed by his father. Talus, the young prince, drinks, fights and cavorts about town with his friends, but his easygoing nature transforms upon learning that he, and not his twin brother, should be next in line for the kingdom. Talus soon veers into darkness, depression and paranoia before hatching a plot to take back what he believes to be rightfully his. The second section is “Four Strangers,” a story about a group of kids from Portland, Maine: Deavon, Erin, Tony and Mike. They arrive in Talus’ world through a portal in the Polar Caves and are soon caught in the middle of the intrigue. Both parts are high on suspense and full of shocking twists, with new characters always emerging and others being unexpectedly killed. Verdelli impressively keeps the story entertaining and surprising. He says his main source of inspiration is C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, and it shows in many good ways. Besides medieval fantasy, Verdelli has many of the same preoccupations: adolescence, religion, destiny, alternate realities, truth, death, and the very nature of good and evil. Sometimes, the story gets carried away with perhaps too many characters and disparate situations, which can occasionally be difficult to follow. But Verdelli’s character-juggling act succeeds more often than it fails, and the deeper aspects of his story resonate profoundly.
An exciting, highly readable fantasy adventure that explores life’s deep questions.