In a world ruled by dragons whose minions rank and brand people like cattle, one boy has the ability to change everything.
Al, Wisp and Trillia join the crowd of 12-year-olds waiting outside the castle on Testing Day. With relatively high-ranking parents—four—Al worries more about his friend, Wisp, whose parents sport the marks of rank two. Wisp, cavalier as always, gives Al a beaten-up hat to wear with an enigmatic message that it will give him the “luck of the Evans.” However, luck seems far from Al when a zero is carved on the back of his neck, indicating his worth and calling for not only his death, but the death of his whole family. Al’s only option is to run. He soon discovers that rank zeros are not worthless but dangerous, capable of overthrowing the dragons and freeing the five races from their slavery. Sword fights, a mysterious society and an impossible quest keep this inventive fantasy moving at a fast clip. Harry Potter fans hungry for a new hero will be drawn to Al, but stock characters and a predictable resolution combine to steal the magic.
A distinctive fantasy with obvious flaws, this still goes down pretty easy. (Fantasy. 8-12)