Phillips and Nissensen’s (The Color of Fear, 2015) YA horror series continues as 14-year-old Caitlin Fletcher returns to a transdimensional fairy-tale realm to rescue her kidnapped sister.
It’s been nearly a year since Caitlin visited the “nonmaterial realm of sheer imagination.” There, she’d befriended famous literary figures, such as Cinderella, and thwarted the evil Enchanter’s curse, which was turning the realm’s inhabitants into zombies. Lately, her psychotherapist has her doubting that the adventure ever happened. But when thousands of peculiar black crows appear in Hyde Park, Caitlin is quick to blame the Enchanter. Soon, a gang of “crowmen” from the other side enters the corporeal world, but its initial target surprisingly isn’t Caitlin—it’s her brainy, 10-year-old sister Natalie, whom they kidnap. It seems that Natalie has a connection to the most powerful realm of all: the “future kingdom” of Eos. Thankfully, Caitlin has help in her rescue mission from her “gruncle” (great-uncle) Derek Blackshaw; Glinda, the Good Witch of the South; and a few other alumni of L. Frank Baum’s Oz series. The new allies aim to prevent an in-person meeting between the Enchanter and Natalie, as the young girl won’t be able to resist the Enchanter’s magical Red Spectrum of light, which is full of negative emotions. As in the authors’ preceding novel, this entertaining story offers zombified, ghoulish versions of literary characters. There’s plenty of other macabre content, as well, including the aforementioned creepy crowmen and ghouls who crave flesh and blood. However, the narrative also has an endearing sense of humor, as when redheaded Caitlin claims that she’s Goldilocks in an attempt to bypass some security. The likable protagonist faces countless obstacles, including her unusual obsessive-compulsive disorder, which sometimes forces her to look at ceiling corners. Despite the darker elements, the authors splash their descriptions with plenty of bright color: a “burning lurid red” sun, the “maroon glow of dusk,” or a portal of a “rich yellow light” swirling “into a golden whirlpool.”
Imaginative, whimsical, and a fine preamble to a potential sequel.