Michael, a Los Angeles teenager with autism, finds that his disorder is a powerful gateway to a mythic realm threatened by the sorcery of Ragnor and his vassals.
Wade appears to have a noble aim in this novel—to empower and encourage young readers with autism. Michael Stone, an orphaned Los Angeles kid with autism who has goth tastes in music and clothing, lives in a group home and is viciously bullied by high school alpha jock Razor. When Razor mutates into a dragon, Michael tumbles into the mythological realm of Imaginor, where his favorite teacher moonlights as Gerf, a Gandalf-type wizard, who explains that people with autism have intrinsic, worldbuilding magical abilities and that an Autistic Circle had benevolently guided Imaginor. That changed when Ragnor—an especially alienated and outcast sorcerer with autism, mentored by Gerf—succumbed to an evil spirit called Corruption. Ragnor went on a conquering rampage as an all-powerful masked villain aided by servants such as Razor, in addition to bandits, werewolves, vampires, trolls and more. As Michael gains fighting mojo and embarks on a battle-a-minute quest to rescue Gerf from Ragnor's clutches, the prose recalls Marvel Comics’ novelizations of the 1970s (though Wade wisely avoids Stan Lee's heavy use of boldface). Wade describes Michael’s dilemmas in clear and simple language that may help to demystify the complexities of autism for young readers: “Sometimes, he would think of something funny and burst out in laughter,” including times when it was inappropriate. The general tone of the book, however, is pedestrian and derivative. Ragnor’s resemblance to Darth Vader becomes painfully evident as the story progresses. And aside from cursory descriptions of how and why Michael feels awkward in social situations, his autism doesn't seem to have much bearing on what happens. He might just as well be left-handed, red-haired or a Democrat, as long as those things opened the door to magical realms.
A novel with a worthy aim but an underdeveloped autism hook.