A new but very familiar-feeling middle-grade fantasy series kicks off.
Twelve-year-old Bailey Walker has been accepted to Aldermere’s prestigious Fairmount Academy, two days’ “rigimotive” travel from where he’s been raised by his adoptive parents. Bailey is excited to be going because he wants to meet Tremelo Loren—a teacher at the academy who he had read has a reputation for strengthening the all-important bond between people and their animal kin, known as Animas. Bailey has not yet awakened to his Animas, a fact that makes him feel out of the norm and self-conscious. Meanwhile, Viviana—the long-lost daughter of the murdered King Melore of Aldermere, who has turned evil after having been enslaved—is plotting to overthrow the government by perverting the normally nurturing Animas bond. Borrowing heavily from concepts in both Harry Potter and the His Dark Materials trilogy, with some arbitrary steampunk-y details, this novel is an uneasy patchwork whose central Animas theme never comes close to achieving the believability or significance it needs to. The clunky, adverb-filled writing features an overabundance of telling rather than showing, and characters are both one-dimensional and inconsistent. Plot developments are so easily anticipated that most readers will have figured it all out well before the final chapters.
A derivative mishmash that just doesn’t work. (Fantasy. 10-12)