In Wilson’s (The Young King, 2017, etc.) YA novel, a young teenager vacationing in Ireland discovers that he has a special destiny to fight evil.
British 13-year-old Peter Wanderer dreads having to spend two whole weeks of his vacation on an isolated Irish island, keeping his elderly aunt company after her recent widowhood. Although he’s prepared for a dull fortnight, dramatic events soon occur: Peter finds himself playing the fiddle better than ever before; three islanders go missing under mysterious circumstances; and there are local reports of pooka or perhaps dullaghans—evil, animal-shaped demons. Even stranger, two old men introduce themselves to Peter and his new acquaintance, a teenage local girl named Siobhan Kelly, as leprechauns and give the pair startling news: they’re both changelings from the “faery” world, and their special skills are desperately needed. Recent construction drilling has awakened Catharnach, an evil giant with many horrible followers, who’s only a representative of the much more fearsome Miasma of Evil. Both teenagers struggle to accept demanding realities—magical beings, changelings, time travel, reincarnation—and the tasks that await them: Peter must find and play a magic harp, and Siobhan must tap into her past life as a great Irish faery warrior in order to face Catharnach. They’ll have help in this endeavor, including from 16th-century pirate Grace O’Malley, but the bigger battle is only beginning. Author Wilson makes good use of Irish history, myth, and legend here to provide a different take on the typical fantasy-adventure plot about a teenager who discovers that he’s more special than he realized. (Siobhan, too, but this is mainly Peter’s story.) The Irish mythology–flavored heroes and villains are a nice change from the usual elves, orcs, dwarves, and such. The book offers engaging episodes of fighting and adventure interspersed with graceful exposition. Although Peter’s and Siobhan’s near-instant access to enormous talents sans long hours of practice offers pleasurable wish-fulfillment, it’s less satisfying than having them learn skills on their own. However, it helps to balance the scales, giving the two a chance to show their considerable courage. Future adventures follow in two published sequels.
A well-paced series opener with plenty of action.