In this debut middle-grade fantasy, a teen prince and his beautiful young companion sneak off on an adventure to save a nearby village.
Thirteen-year-old Bennett is the son of Matthew Kladivo II, king of peaceful Ziemia. Bennett grows up safe and wealthy, but he longs for exploits like those enjoyed by the knights who visit the castle. One day, the knights mention that the people of the Southern Mountains struggle against invaders from the neighboring kingdom of Lomar. The largest village under siege, Cortus, owns an enchanted cylinder of stone called the Zoldox. The Zoldox possesses the power to keep away a savage troglodyte race called the Edu. When Bennett travels with his uncle and Ziemia’s soldiers to Cortus, they learn that the Zoldox has been stolen. Bennett also spies a lovely girl his age named Melissa, whose family has requested protection from the army. Eventually, Bennett gets to know Melissa, who reveals that her two younger cousins have vanished. The prince tells her: “If the Edu captured your cousins, they are probably already dead and eaten, but there is also a good chance that bandits captured [them].” As Melissa vows to take action, Bennett summons the courage to accompany her wherever the mission leads. Kucera builds a charming tale that should entice middle-grade and classical fantasy readers alike. He offers colorful descriptions (the Edu have “thick, tough, gray, almost bluish skin, which was sparsely covered with thick, dark gray bristles”) accompanied by spot-on illustrations by Cerv. In entertaining passages, the author creates fantasy situations that utilize genuine biology. When the kids sneak into the Edu caverns, they crush ladybugs on their bodies because “they would hide the scent of Bennett and Melissa and, at the same time, give off a natural smell the Edu would be familiar with.” Though the narrative is short, it includes the excellent lesson that “a clever mind can defeat more enemies than a sharp sword.” Kucera’s ending places his characters in an intriguing quandary.
A tale about a perilous rescue operation that delivers a sweet, all-ages romp, leaving room for further escapades.