In Kouam’s (Power of Kids, 2017) YA science-fantasy tale, a boy magician must battle unknowable forces of evil to save his planet.
The story takes place on the planet Manitoba, a human colony in the far future that’s ruled by powerful god Queen Mother and her scheming assistant, Hector. A young boy named Superhuman awakens one morning and jumps out of bed, screaming. It turns out that he now has the power of magic, which manifests as luminous text on his hand. The text tells him to meet a young witch named Luna and take her to safety, but Superhuman gives up on the task when Hector appears and warns him not to pursue it. Later, Luna nearly dies in a car crash that Hector orchestrates. Readers then learn that Luna is the wellspring of Superhuman’s magic. Superhuman’s hand sends him to visit her in the hospital, where he repeatedly defends her from Hector; this gives Philip, the novel’s mentor figure, a chance to whisk Luna away to safety. Ultimately, Superhuman, Luna, their school friends, and Philip, with some help from a magic book, end up fighting an epic battle with Manitoba’s future at stake—and not everyone will make it out alive. Kouam offers readers a strong plot and relatable, charming characters in his latest novel. He subverts damsel-in-distress tropes by having Luna free Superhuman from captivity on three separate occasions. After the first jailbreak, she joins Superhuman at his school, along with a mysterious boy named King, who has similar magic on his hand; later, some readers may feel that Superhuman, Luna, and King too strongly resemble the Triforce avatars of the Legend of Zelda video game series. Also, Kouam’s devotion to worldbuilding sometimes slows the action to a crawl, and his awkward phrasing (such as numerous references to Superhuman’s “magic palm’s hand”) can be difficult to parse at times.
An adventure with a compelling plot and characters, hampered by clunky prose and excessive worldbuilding.