Three children discover their magical family legacy in Wilson’s middle-grade debut.
Thirteen-year-old Jack Gregson is an orphan—his mother died giving birth to him, and his father subsequently vanished. But he’s grown up surrounded by extended family in centuries-old Gregson Manor. The mansion contains a door that has never been opened. Jack and cousins Rosie and David even try dynamite to no avail. All it gets them is grounded from the annual family reunion, Jack’s “favorite day of the year.” Bored, they start looking through an old book Rosie found about the manor house. The children discover that the details change as the house does. The book guides them to a hidden attic, where they meet a mysterious woman called “the curator.” She tells the astonished children that the house and family are in grave danger, and they must recover a magical blue emerald to vanquish dark forces. They glean that the Gregson family has guarded a portal to other, fantastical worlds for hundreds of years—and that Jack is now the heir to this legacy, destined to protect Earth from the machinations of his evil ancestor, Richard Gregson, whose thirst for power was so great he used the portal for conquest. Jack, David, and Rosie will travel to strange planets and fight crazy odds as they try to stop Richard once and for all. We see flashes of imagination—Richard’s army, the Horde, which is a virulent “black mist,” is genuinely creepy. But the cast is underdeveloped. David likes football; Rosie likes books; and Jack likes both. But we aren’t told much more about them. Another drawback: Jack typically relies far more on artifacts in battles than his own abilities.
By-the-numbers portal fantasy with little to distinguish it from the pack.