A promising start to a fantasy series mines the rich ore of Celtic mythology and propels a young boy into cosmic battle.
Timothy James Maxwell props open his front door to see what might happen on a March evening, and the strangers who drop in are unexpectedly otherworldly. McQuerry sends her young characters—Tim, his sister and his classmate Jessica (whose prettiness and queen-bee status torment him)—into the conflict between Light and Dark and into the territory made familiar in Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising quintet. There is the Greenman, the horned huntsman, a Celtic warrior in wolf form, even a May Day sacrifice complete with Morris dancers. Tim’s elderly babysitter, Mrs. Clapper, becomes Cerridwyn the huntress, explaining that Tim and his companions are now caught up in an ongoing cosmic story: “Before all things and after all things the story is.” Jessica’s role in the May Day sacrifice and Tim’s substitution for her in the wild hunt put both of them in dangerous proximity to Balor, an emissary of the Dark. References to quantum physics and to the way that time might seem “like water pouring off a tabletop, flowing in all directions at once,” emphasize the simultaneous presence of the mythic and everyday life. An Ogham-based code explained in an opening note runs along the bottoms of the pages for readers to decipher.
Sure-handed and page-turning, this series opener leaves plenty to be resolved. (Fantasy. 10-14)