With their 20-sided dice in hand, five middle school heroes battle to save the world.
Every weekend, 11-year-old Ralph and his friends gather around with their dice and paper to continue their quest for the seven missing pieces of the Serpent Scepter. However, ever since they started middle school, Ralph feels like he’s the only one holding onto his passion for the tabletop role-playing game Reign of Dragons. His friends have moved on, especially Jojo, who has joined the gymnastics team and wants nothing to do with Ralph at school. Determined to remind his friends why they love playing together, Ralph plans one last awesome session, but he never could have predicted their imaginary characters would come to life. Ralph’s gaming group is a diverse party of kids. While Jojo is white, Noel is biracial (black/white), Persephone is Asian, and Ralph is Jewish (“for some people it makes a difference”). Cammi (also white) never explicitly discusses his sexuality or gender identity, but he enjoys dressing up as a princess, and his RoD character is secretly gay. Despite the promising premise, the book doesn’t quite land. Until the abrupt shift when the fantasy characters arrive on the scene, it drags with exposition and frequent explanations of gaming terminology. Overall, the plot is disjointed and the pace is inconsistent.
A nifty premise but not a critical hit. (Fantasy. 9-13)