A debut middle-grade novel features magical lands, childhood adventure, guardian spirits, and the love of family.
This first volume in a projected fantasy series introduces readers to Wyatt Tobiah, the youngest of four brothers, after Gallard, Maelog, and Augustus. The boys live alone with their father, Dalton, after their mother died nine years ago. Though their father loves them all very much, his career in the energy sciences keeps him extremely busy, and the boys are often left to their own devices. They end up exploring an abandoned manor house, where a mysterious mirror turns out to be a portal to another land. Talia is described as a peaceful and perfect place, and moreover, after her death, the boys’ mother, Arianna, became queen of this realm. The boys travel to Talia and are amazed (“They saw only untainted beauty. The whole land of Talia was unbelievably lush, green, and pristine. There were flowing waterfalls, trees swaying in the wind, rolling hills, and flowers everywhere”). They are told that they must help Arianna save Talia—and ultimately their own world as well—from the malignant machinations of Lucempest. If the boys succeed, not only will they save two worlds, but they will also help their father with his life’s work. And that work, clean energy, is very much at the center of this story. Pollution and humanity’s role in spoiling the planet figure prominently in this wild, tangled tale, a point that is made strongly and often, frequently in a somewhat heavy-handed and didactic manner. At one point, Gallard even gets an essay test on the subject. The formality of the dialogue unfortunately enhances this flaw. Though the main protagonists are young boys, neither they nor anyone else in the tale ever use contractions, giving their speech a robotic, unrealistic air. That’s too bad, because the emotional core of the book resonates powerfully, both in the clear concern for the environment that shows in the bones of the work and in the deeply loving—if occasionally unbelievably idealized—Tobiah family.
A promising first installment of a fantasy series about saving two worlds that needs to evolve to become fully realistic and unreservedly magical.