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THE MALIFEX by Steve Alton

THE MALIFEX

By Steve Alton

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-8225-0959-8
Publisher: Carolrhoda

The standard fantasy adventure gets an intriguing twist when told from a Wiccan perspective in Alton’s debut. Faced with the horrors of spending his vacation traipsing about Dorsetshire museums with his parents, antisocial nerd Sam manufactures a friendship with local farmgirl Charly in order to be left alone with his videogames. But when Charly takes him to an ancient burial mound, Sam somehow awakens Amergin, apprentice of the wizard Merlin, from thousands of years of enchanted slumber. Amergin proclaims Sam the champion destined to face the Malifex, the embodiment of the powers of death and darkness. Sam would very much rather not get involved, but once the Malifex unleashes his demonic Dhouls and curses his parents, Sam reluctantly joins Charly and Amergin in a search for various magical artifacts, aided by the Wiccan lore preserved by Charly’s mother. Yet with modern industrial pollution and greed, the Malifex has never been stronger, and their quest to restore the cosmic Balance seems doomed to disaster. This is all enjoyable, if unexceptional, fare, though the thinly characterized heroes and pedestrian villains are not well served by frequent, abrupt changes in point of view. However, the somewhat heavy-handed ecological message will appeal to many teens and Alton lifts the story out of the ordinary by his thorough incorporation of Wiccan spirituality (including detailed description of rituals and spells), which leads to an unexpected yet satisfying climactic confrontation. An interesting counterpoint to the many fantasies with a more Judeo-Christian take on the battle between good and evil. (Fiction. YA)