Charlie Laird’s nightmares become a reality when he discovers a portal to the Netherworld.
Charlie’s widowed father has recently remarried, and Charlie hates it. He hates his stepmom. He hates that his young brother, Jack, is taken in by her. But most of all he hates the new house his family has moved into, as well as the never-ending stream of nightmares he experiences there every night. An evil witch haunts Charlie’s sleep, threatening to eat him and his brother up. When the witch appears in the real world and snatches Jack away, Charlie follows her into the Netherworld and, with the aid of a gorgon and a few slumbering friends, sets out to save not just his brother, but the Land of Nightmares itself. As a first book in a proposed trilogy, there’s a lot of promise here. The authors set up the supernatural rules of this world with ease, not getting bogged down with exceptions or contradictions. The book succeeds at scaring and amusing in equal measure, with the Nightmares as varied as they are humorous. At the heart of the endeavor is a story of personal growth, one that fits nicely with the spooky doings surrounding it. Best of all, this is a contained story. There’s no cliffhanger, no shoddy lingering threats. Upon completion, readers could set it down and never return to the Netherworld, but this world is so enjoyable and interesting, it’s hard to not anticipate future trips.
Sweet, charming and imaginative: a promising launch. (Fantasy. 8-12)