Laoch, a 14-year-old Iguana, is training to be a Master Grower, but the rebellious Lizard would rather be an inventor and leave his village of Talamh for the city of Utomia.
When one of Laoch’s experiments goes awry, the Utomian Military Forces and the nefarious Other Army converge on quiet, agrarian Talamh. Just before the latter arrests Laoch’s parents, his father gives Laoch a mysterious gilded disc, instructing him to take it to Utomia, where he’ll discover its purpose. Is it connected to the purple smoke from his big fail? Why is the city, surrounded by the magical, domed Water Shield, so heavily guarded? As Laoch and his twin brother, Leeland, and their friends Nudge (a Meerkat) and Sty (a Bat) make the dangerous journey to the legendary city, their personal transformations surprise themselves and one another. Worldbuilding includes a detail-heavy background of politics, warfare, tradition, and technology as well as a superabundance of capitalized words. Laoch, Leeland, and most of the Lizards in their village are “hybrids”; the twins also have Gecko and Chameleon blood. Marginalized Beings such as Bats are literally given “Other Status.” There’s a pronunciation guide to help with the numerous Irish spellings, but readers will also be forgiven for feeling that a who’s-who chart wouldn’t go amiss. Too many shifting third-person perspectives muddy the story. These include the four main characters and at least five major secondary characters whose roles are unclear. Here’s hoping they get more airtime in Book 2.
A cluttered and confusing start to a new animal-fantasy series. (Fantasy. 8-14)