In this fantasy novel for young readers, the second volume in the Zephrum Gates series, the titular heroine finds herself at an unusual school for kids with special abilities while hoping that an old adversary won’t come back to harm her.
Zephrum Gates is no ordinary teenage girl: Part wind fairy, she can control the air, though she hasn’t quite figured out how to manage that power just yet. In order to learn how to harness her abilities, Zephrum enrolls in the newly launched Fiddlesticks School for Alternative Thinkers with Unusual Abilities, where kids are taught about the magic in the world around them while they also learn circus arts and environmentally friendly living habits. At Fiddlesticks, Zephrum rooms with her friend Daphne, who can predict the future through her artwork. Zephrum also develops a crush on Gai, who has an unusual gift for growing things. However, her life at this hippie-influenced Hogwarts is threatened by her old enemy, the nefarious Strasidous Rowpe. Diminished to a mere wisp of smoke, Rowpe blames Zephrum for his downfall and enlists his goblin minions to capture her, steal her blood and use it to bring him back to full force. The resulting adventures involve a chicken-stealing sasquatch, a dragon whose only desire is to find his soul mate, a fairy who speaks in verse, a troll who lives under a bridge and other fantastical beings. Riel (Zephrum Gates and the Mysterious Purple Haze, 2005) has a wild sense of humor and a colorful imagination that occasionally overwhelms; she packs so many weird, wacky things into the story that the plotline often gets trampled underfoot. Wrapping one’s head around the crazy universe will be even more difficult if one hasn’t read the first installment of Zephrum’s adventures. However, amid the confusion, there’s much fun to be had. Young people, girls in particular, will admire Zephrum and her tough, tomboyish ways as they learn about the importance of friendship through her relationships with Daphne, Gai and others.
A fun, if somewhat overstuffed, story about one girl’s magical coming-of-age.