Confident storytelling lays a solid foundation for Book 1 of this original middle-grade fantasy trilogy.
Eleven-year-old Danny wakes up one morning after a tumultuous thunderstorm to find his parents gone and the giant sycamore in his backyard destroyed by lightning. Poking around the remains of the tree, he discovers a stick that, when held, allows him to communicate with all of the natural world—plants, animals, insects; even rivers and storms. When his parents—storm-obsessed ever since the storm-related death of their first child, a sister Danny never knew—do not return by the following morning, he sets off to find them. As Danny searches for his parents, Sammael is searching for Danny, as the stick, a taro, is powerful magic that he wants for himself. Sammael is an otherworldly entity who is part sandman—planting dreams into people as they sleep—and part devil, making deals in exchange for souls (souls that, in wonderful narrative cohesion, transmute to grains of sand after death). Complex and morally nuanced, Hatfield’s story harkens back to European and ancient Greek mythology in its anthropomorphizing of dreams and fears (Death, a silver-haired woman with red eyes, plays a key role) and its portrayal of nature as character rather than setting.
A powerfully conceived and executed story that adds a wholly original element to the fantasy genre. (Fantasy. 10-13)