This mildly engaging fantasy features a magical book, famous figures from the past and a decidedly unheroic narrator who nevertheless manages (with some help) to save the world.
Spencer, a sixth-grader, informs readers immediately that he suffers from a serious eye disease that will eventually cause him to lose his sight. His best friend, Gregor, is on the autism spectrum. Spencer’s disability seems mainly to serve as a (minor) plot point. Fry does a better job of integrating Gregor’s diagnosis and creating a well-rounded character. The boys get mixed up in mysterious goings-on when Ed, an elderly man that Spencer visits at a local nursing home, entrusts Spencer with a book and then promptly disappears. The story rushes on from there as Spencer brings to life (then loses) Socrates and finds himself pursued by a shadowy bad guy with a German accent. Fry offers plenty of action to move the plot along, not giving readers too much time to puzzle over the mechanics of her magic. The casual, colloquial tone, sprinkled with humorous observations and asides, manages to sound enough like that of a sixth-grader to aid in the suspension of disbelief, though Spencer’s reactions to Ed’s granddaughter Mel seem a bit flowery for the average middle school boy.
Fry breaks no new ground, but she does provide undemanding entertainment for fantasy fans and history buffs. (Fantasy. 9-12)