In his first novel for middle-grade readers, Johnson-Shelton serves up the first installment of an Arthurian trilogy starring 12-year-old video-gamer Artie Kingfisher.
Artie begins receiving mysterious computer messages telling him “it has begun,” and soon he is off to fulfill his destiny as the once and future king. It turns out that Artie is King Arthur—or, rather, Arthur’s genetic sibling, created out of Uther Pendragon’s finger bone and a lock of Lady Igraine’s hair. At a gaming tournament in Cincinnati, Artie comes across Merlin, trapped in an invisible tower downtown, and it’s Merlin who directs Artie on his quest. Much is expected of him: He must destroy the invisible tower, travel to the Otherworld and put an end to Lordess Morgaine’s evil reign and gain access to the Otherworld’s clean energy resources. No pressure, except the world is doomed if he fails. This new take on the Arthurian legends, told in third-person, pits wisecracking contemporary teens with their contemporary banter—“ freaking awesome,” “far out”—against all manner of obstacles: killer tornadoes, dire wolves, a green dragon, an elf and a wolf-headed man. At times, the prose is wordy and awkward, but it’s always high-spirited and fun.
Gives new life to Arthurian legends and may just send readers back to more traditional tellings. (Adventure. 10-14)