Makoto “Mack” Kimura is suitably skeptical when his seventh-period independent study is revealed as training for Changers, or shape-shifters.
But when the Changing Stone reveals his Changer form as a kitsune, a Japanese magical fox capable of flying, creating illusions, and controlling fire, he is intrigued. Now he and his three Changer friends must learn to master their powers. There is little time for the young heroes, however, as a warlock with the power to enslave all Changers and bend them to do his will is on his way. Mack’s Japanese-immigrant grandfather tells of an ancient evil who wielded the same weapon but was ultimately defeated by four young Changers, who, because of their age, were immune to the enchantment. It falls to Mack and his friends—Latina Gabriella, African-American Darren, and white Fiona—to fight the evil warlock, destroy the iron horn, and save the world. Mythology from Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and Ireland differentiates this adventure from other, similar shape-shifter tales. An intriguing mix of characters, all coping with complicated home lives and the politics of middle school, further infuses the narrative with energy. The open ending sets up future volumes.
A fresh look at a familiar concept, with a consciously diverse approach. (Fantasy. 8-11)