In Finnish’s debut middle-grade reader, a young Wisconsinite discovers a hidden magical world with a focus on conservation.
Arthur Grey is a young boy living a humdrum life in Wisconsin, raised by a strict grandmother with equally strict servants, wishing for a life with a little more freedom and adventure. When his dad comes to visit on his 11th birthday, Arthur’s prayers are answered. Between a string of mysterious visitors, unusual dreams and a locket Arthur discovers, a new world appears before him. It turns out that Arthur’s dad works for a secret society devoted to protecting the magical creatures of the world, as did his late mother. Before Arthur can fully shake the Wisconsin winter from his bones, he’s thrown into training as an initiate. As such, he discovers a secret plot to sell some of the rare, mystical animals in the society’s care to poachers. Finnish’s novel is sure to please fans of stories about kids discovering unusual talents. The conservation angle lends an interesting twist. While much of the background setting feels familiar (in a post-Potter world, it’s far too easy to see signs of Hogwarts in the Conservatorium grounds), the characters are likable, entertaining reading companions. However, the dialects of some characters become burdensome to read after a few chapters. Not every player is handled with as much ease as the central group–one character is saddled with obvious character flaws. The book, judging by the narrative hints sprinkled throughout, serves as the introduction to an intended series. As such, it’s more concerned about the journey than telling a self-contained story.
A treat for young readers with a thirst for adventure and magic.