In Colless’ middle-grade debut, a young boy may be a prophesied king who, according to legend, will save the world when it needs him most.
Peter Blue celebrates his 11th birthday at the Gum Tree Rest Home in Australia, where he’s spent the last five years. His parents, Byron and Thelma Blue, died in a bush fire, which he mysteriously survived. At the home, the boy finds his dad’s old Global Advanced Intelligence Agency jacket—a wearable, wi-fi–capable device. Inside a pocket is a card for “Spiral Hall / School for the Ecodemically Gifted.” The school is part of Peter’s quest, according to an old, bearded man named Tollen, who appears in his dreams. The boy reluctantly leaves his grandmother Nonna LaRosa at the home and travels to London, where he stays with his Aunty Surla (his mother’s sister) and Uncle Gorrman while attending school. Unfortunately, Peter must cope with bullies trying to steal his dad’s jacket, and Gorrman doesn’t want his nephew to attend Spiral Hall at all. Some there think that Peter may be the Sleeping King—the destined light during dark days to come. Meanwhile, frightening beings known as Anthrogs are actively searching for Peter, and they want to prevent him from foiling their upcoming “siege on the human race.” Colless’ tale is populated by richly colorful characters, such as former millionaire Devlin Dean, who’s staying at the rest home because the bank took his mansion and other belongings. The book is clearly a series launch, as the Anthrog Overlord and his Drones make only a couple of appearances, and there’s merely a hint of the Sleeping King’s potential power. However, readers will surely look forward to seeing more of these characters, including the other motley but endearing residents of the rest home or Pickles, a baby wallaby that Peter helps to rescue. The author expertly assembles scores of dialogue scenes involving multiple characters. The environmentalist message is also cleverly integrated: Peter’s rather unlikable aunt and uncle, for example, use plastic utensils and containers almost exclusively—and don’t recycle.
A fantasy tale featuring delightful characters that primes readers for an ongoing series.