In Goodell and Bright’s YA fantasy, the first of a planned series, a teenage boy enters a parallel world where magic exists, falls for a pretty sprite, and discovers that a prophecy plays a part in his own origins.
A psychic wound delivered by a ghostly apparition leads unhappy, 16-year-old Ben into a different plane of existence: the magical world of Bespri. There, a sprite named Mizli is the strong-willed daughter of the queen of peaceful Caldae, home to the Harmonies, which power the world’s magic. But tensions are escalating between Caldae and the repressive kingdom of Feyr. Ben gets caught up in Feyr’s ambitions, Caldae’s internal struggles, his growing attraction to Mizli, and a prophecy that may involve his late mother. Along the way, he must make life-changing decisions and tap into strengths he never knew he had. In this suspenseful fantasy, Goodell and Bright imagine a colorful, lived-in world—from the Imperial Residence, whose blood-colored stone walls “rippled as if a giant had squeezed them from the ends,” to Mizli’s intimate garden, “so alive with color that Ben caught his breath.” Several worldbuilding details also affect the plot, such as the existence of teleporting (known as “longstepping”), bird song that soothes away aggression, and monkeylike “attagers” that induce stress. Unexpected substantive ethical quandaries having to do with the use of power, both magical and governmental, add depth, as does an underlying message about the importance of critical thinking: Ben questions motives on both sides of the conflict, grapples with anger at his absent mother and his strict guardian, and strives to think beyond his emotional responses. For the most part, this content is threaded naturally into the fabric of the plot, although the overly expository last-chapter wrap-up is an exception.
A thoughtful, imaginative first installment that takes young readers on an absorbing journey through an alternate universe.