Noted Native American storyteller and author Bruchac turns to the Slovakian side of his family heritage to produce an entirely fresh and funny fantasy.
All his life, 15-year-old Rashko has suffered his family of fools: his absent-minded, naive father, his terminally innocent mother and especially his permanently happy, utterly simple older brother. His mental superiority is put to the test when, his parents inexplicably absent, the evil Baron Temny arrives at family castle with a small army. His brother is instantly enchanted (literally) by the Baron's oily "daughter," so it's up to Rashko to thwart the Baron and save their tiny domain. Bruchac intersperses Rashko's story with that of his long-ago ancestor, Pavol, who fought a dragon and defeated the Dark Lord. Readers will see fairly quickly that Rashko, for all his vaunted intellect, gives those around him far too little credit. Before the story's out, he will need the assistance of the many endearingly quirky secondary characters that round out the cast, from a couple of wonderful, telepathic wolves and the loyal, preternaturally aware family retainer to a pair of dashing jugglers. Rashko's wry voice reveals a teen whose sense of self-importance is balanced healthily by a goodhearted, winning decency.
The story recalls Lloyd Alexander at his wry, humane best; readers will be happy for every moment they spend at castle Hladka Hvorka. (Fantasy. 10-14)