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ETHAN AND THE KEY by Dennis  Canfield


by Dennis Canfield

Publisher: Well Spoken Books

A modern American boy is spirited away to a medieval kingdom and must defend the realm in Canfield’s middle-grade fantasy.

Ethan is an unremarkable seventh grader who plays baseball, studies, and hangs out with his friends. However, his life is about to change drastically. One day at home, he finds a strange puddle of green light. When he touches it, he’s transported to another world—a land without digital technology but with a bona fide castle. As disorienting as this is, what confuses Ethan most is that his arrival is expected and that Edward, king of Abentur, knows who he is. He informs the boy about some of the kingdom’s history and then sends him home using the Gateway, a magical stone that the king keeps around his neck. Ethan goes back to his everyday life, but the thought of Abentur gnaws at him. When the green light reappears, he takes the opportunity to return to the castle, where he meets the king’s children; later, he helps to save them from kidnappers. Abentur, as it happens, is under threat from invaders riding winged horses, and its only protection is a dragon, which the attackers plan to kill. Can Ethan protect the kingdom and survive long enough to learn his true purpose? Canfield, the author of Back to Christmas (2013), writes in a simple, engaging prose style. The characters largely conform to familiar genre types, but Ethan is a likable protagonist who’s affable, brave, and curious. Some of the minor players, such as Godfrey, who commands the king’s army, are memorable, as well. The kingdom itself is only lightly sketched to provide a backdrop for the action; it seems very small at times, as the story mostly ignores the inhabitants who aren’t central to the narrative. The dialogue isn’t especially medieval, but this is an understandable choice. The quick-paced story will suit a middle-grade audience; like the first Harry Potter book, it hints at greater nuance and sets the scene for more complex sequels. Young fantasy fans should find themselves transported.

A lively piece of escapism featuring peril, adventure, and a dash of consequence.