Title: The Fires of Calderon
Author: Lindsay Cummings
Albert was prepared for a boring-yet-awesome summer with his dad in Herman, Wyoming. But when a delivery lands him in the Core, a magical place deep below the earth, he learns he’s destined to become a Balance Keeper, someone who protects the three underground Realms. Albert is eager to make friends and gain special powers, but things aren’t quite going according to plan. And then the realm Calderon’s Imbalance keeps getting worse . . .
I liked the variety of creatures that pop up in this story, everything from dogs with glowing eyes to the fierce raptor pictured in the cover art and more. There’s a good mix of familiar mythological faces and original. The powers range the gamut from the typical superhero fare to the somewhat more mundane: speed, strength, breathing underwater, talking to animals, enhanced memory, etc. Albert’s relationship with Birdie and Leroy is predictable but still engaging, as the three of them learn to use their powers as a team.
There were a few inconsistencies that bothered me. Albert’s job in the beginning was highly unbelievable to me—the government allows an 11-year-old with no supervision to handle mail? A quick check on a search engine is enough to bring up how such a process is actually handled, and rather predictably it doesn’t look anything like what’s in the book. When Albert reaches the Core, he immediately latches on to a certain person as suspicious, although said person doesn’t actually do anything suspicious at all, unless that person is supposed to be assumed to be the unnamed person in the last scene.
I think it was mostly that nothing personally grabbed me about this book. The bully and cronies were mean just to be mean and follow the expected rise and fall. Albert’s Tile makes him a wildcard, and he feels overpowered (he actually handles most of the last mission by himself, and the other two function more like sidekicks than full teammates).
Overall this is not a bad read, and kids would probably enjoy. But I find myself ambivalent about continuing the series for myself. I rate this book Neutral.