Mitchell’s middle-grade fantasy novel offers a little bit of everything, including intergalactic travel, talking animals, an evil witch and swashbuckling pirates.
When the evil sorceress Zerolan invades the peaceful kingdom of Harmonicas, Princess Alanna makes a daring escape and sends her pet owl, Twig, off into the unknown to find help. Twig ends up on Earth, where he meets three boys on a camping trip and takes them back with him to help rescue Harmonicas from Zerolan’s clutches. The boys team up with the princess and pick up a few more helpers along the way. Together, they use magic, cunning and some luck to defeat their foes as they travel across the land by owl, kayak and hot air balloon. The book is suited to young readers; although there are hints of developing romances, they go no farther than some hand-holding and a peck on the cheek. Older teens and adults may sometimes have difficulty suspending their disbelief; for example, they may question the fact that the residents of Harmonicas speak English but have their own words for terms of measurement, as noted in ongoing parenthetical asides: “I'm afraid you are yulhydrons (billions) of space-likets (light-years) away from your planet.” There are a few violent scenes that may be too much for very young readers: “The sword sliced through their midsections like a knife cuts through jelly.” Also, although the boys from Earth are described as modern-day teens, they tend to talk in a hokey, old-fashioned way, using phrases such as “jumpin’ jackfish” and “[m]y Dad’s going to tan my hide.” By the novel’s end, the three boys make it back to Earth, but they aren’t alone: Friends and foes from Harmonicas have joined them, setting the stage for a possible sequel.
Young readers will likely appreciate the twists, turns and touches of humor in this episodic adventure tale.