Stricklen’s YA novel follows two young boys as they adventure into another world.
Blackwater Pond has a bad reputation. Mysterious whisperings taunt its visitors, and the seemingly bottomless center is rumored to lead straight to hell. When Brian, 16, and his younger brother, Tommy, 12, go swimming, the pond seems to swallow Tommy whole. Most assume Tommy drowned, but Brian is convinced he’s alive. Lured by the pond, he wades into its depths and is sucked down into the world beneath the water. There, he encounters two warring factions, the Thorks, who settled the land, and the Trediarians, who maintain control by sacrificing anyone who doesn’t believe in Nimbus, a carnivorous cloud and godlike figure. Brian, realizing that the Trediarians kidnapped Tommy, manages to befriend the Trediarian princess. With her help and that of a quirky Thork named Ebil, they rescue Tommy and set off into the wilds to try to make their way home. Stricklen uses devices from other successful fantasy books, such as falling through a hole into another realm, underground dwellers battling monstrous evil forces, and invented words and creatures. Though not especially original, those devices lend themselves to fanciful storytelling, particularly when describing the surreal surroundings of this distant land. And while the writing isn’t dazzling either, Stricklen skillfully embeds morality lessons and pearls of wisdom throughout the narrative, usually through Ebil’s rants—“So many beliefs and all know they are right. It will never be settled in a fight or display of might”—which parents of young readers will appreciate.
A quick adventure for readers inclined toward flights of fancy.