Another engaging fantasy adventure from Hiatt (A Parent’s Guide to Parent-Teacher Communication, 2014, etc.) about the teenage Taliesin “Tal” Weaver and his motley band, featuring supernatural beings, reincarnated leaders and a magical mom.
Ever since a spell made Tal aware of dozens of his past lives (in 2012’s Living with Your Past Selves), he’s had to deal with repeated threats to his life and safety. Still, even he’s surprised when, leaving soccer practice one day, he’s confronted by a classmate who’s in league with Ares, the Greek god of war. That’s just the start of Tal’s troubles: in short order, he tangles with a shape-shifter and learns new information about his mother’s psychic powers. Complicating things further, he finds out that he must face Morgan Le Fay in a trial by combat. Unexpected sabotage disrupts the trial, though, which culminates in Tal embarking on an epic quest to find the lyre of Orpheus. The journey will require the skills of all his allies, and will take him to Olympus, the underworld and beyond. He’ll also meet an enemy whom he vastly underestimated in the past. The fast-paced action and snappy witticisms that enlivened the previous books in Hiatt’s Spell Weaver series still shine here (“Great, now I get to make history as the first participant of a trial by combat who has to bring his mommy with him!” Tal says at one point). However, there are occasional instances of overwrought prose (“a voice that cut like a dagger chilled in the heart of a glacier”). The nearly nonstop battle scenes sacrifice the novel’s emotional complexity and poignancy, and moments of foreshadowing tends to be surprisingly heavy-handed. Still, there’s no denying the sheer reading pleasure of this series, and this book is no exception. Hiatt has mastered the art of creating innovative situations that conform to the rules of his invented worlds. The pace builds steadily to a coherent conclusion, which still leaves room for future Spell Weaver books.
Hiatt’s formula for success holds true in this latest fantasy installment, which features rich literary allusion, swift pacing, crisp dialogue and inventive plotting.