The magic—and confusion—of Hollow Earth (2012) continues in this befuddling sequel.
Opening recaps remind readers of twins Matt and Em Calder’s abilities to “draw,” or animate, themselves into paintings; of their mother’s disappearance; and of the evil plan of their father, now trapped in a painting, to open Hollow Earth and unleash its monsters and demons upon the world. Solon, the 15-year-old novice monk who inhabits their same Scottish island during the Middle Ages, plays a larger role in the story’s alternating chapters this time. As the twins continue to test their magical abilities and plot to find their missing mother, Solon tries to puzzle out why a band of rebel monks wants him dead and wants possession of the Book of Beasts, an unfinished manuscript, and the bone quill used to write it. He discovers that whoever can use the bone quill to complete the Book of Beasts may unlock Hollow Earth. Again and again, Matt and Em travel back to Solon’s time, hoping to discover the manuscript first and keep the future safe. With the sophistication of the worldbuilding, the authors lose readers in the convoluted specifics. Even a concluding glossary fails to add clarification. The clunky, cliffhanger ending, in turn, whimpers rather than wows.
Those looking for a detailed magical world should just stick with Harry Potter. (Fantasy. 8-12)