Another paint-by-numbers quest fantasy that (surprise!) kicks off a series.
Neglecting to spare any significant roles for females in her unmanageably large cast, Reyes sends an old wizard’s young apprentice and five other boys on a ritual quest that all 14-year-old boys on the Isle of Imaness must take. Accompanying them are a “half-breed” man-cat and a tricksy shapechanger who fall in along the way. Their search for the titular “Rock,” who turns out to be the exiled husband of long-dead Princess Ivanore, takes them to the Isle’s only major town. Along with an army of newly freed cat-people slaves leaping to defend their former captors (a case of Stockholm Syndrome if ever there was one) and one-eyed giants who are inexplicably impervious to attacks from fire-breathing dragons, they repel an invading force from the mainland. Even attentive readers will have trouble keeping track of who is where as the characters scramble about amid a blizzard of choppy chapters and shifting points of view. Closing with revelations about hidden siblings and parentage that are not only predictable but telegraphed, this anemic tale is free of both suspense and surprise.
An irascible talking wizard’s staff is the only memorable element in this otherwise trite outing. (Fantasy. 10-12)