Three orphans pass through a tall hedge and find themselves in a world of advanced (to them) technology and carnivorous sheep.
Rescuing fellow orphan Milly from orange-robed kidnappers, George and Sam discover a temporary gap that has opened in a seemingly impenetrable hedge. Beyond is a land of shark-toothed “Muttons” (and actual sharks in the rivers), talking animals and child-sized humanoids. These last ride floating carts along a road powered with electricity from a Robe-owned generating plant, which is staffed by stolen children. So it’s off to another rescue—aided greatly by a passage through a “Rainbow Cave” where Milly gains super strength and the boys acquire other powers. At the end of the entirely predictable escapade, all return to the orphanage to find that the evil headmaster has fled, leaving them in charge. Signs of slipshod construction range from the Robes’ utterly ineffectual efforts to capture the orphans to the sudden reappearance of a dog that was killed in the first chapter. These only add to the overall sense that the author has just thrown together familiar tropes and random elements in hopes that they’ll stick to each other. Occasional small monochrome drawings add neither character nor detail.
The action never lets up, but readers are likely to come away from this trilogy opener more confused than intrigued. (Fantasy. 10-12)