Title: The Invisible Tower
Author: Nils Johnson-Shelton
Arthur Kingfisher is an ordinary kid deeply involved in a game called Otherworld. And then the game starts going strange on him, and he finds a real Otherworld, along with the real Merlin. It turns out Artie is related to the original King Arthur, and now Merlin needs his help (and Excalibur) to get out of the Invisible Tower where he’s been imprisoned for hundreds of years. Can Artie stand against the centuries-old wickedness of Morgaine?
It may have been a mistake to read two Arthur-inspired tales back to back, although I’m not certain anything would have changed my mind about this one. I do think kids will probably enjoy it, as the prose is light and the action is snappy, and Artie is very much a typical twelve-year-old who thinks games are the coolest thing ever.
But . . . you have someone related to King Arthur (apparently the whole Arthur thing is genetic, although I do give props for avoiding the clone angle), the original Merlin, and a cast comparable to the Knights of the Round Table, along with antagonist Morgaine, and what’s the real enemy? Global warming and the energy crisis (I wish I was making this up). Morgaine might show up and throw around a few tornadoes but the REAL threat is clearly that we’re going to run out of fossil fuels sometime in the next few hundred years. And what’s even more agonizing is how EXCITED people like Artie’s father get over the idea that Artie will unite the worlds to bring over a clean energy source and save us all from oil and extinction.
And then there’s Artie’s dad, who is as much of a kid as his son, and doesn’t worry at all when Artie vanishes into the Otherworld for several weeks because he knows his son is going to fight for clean energy for the world. Actually most of the characters, adults or kids, have a pretty childish mentality. Or take the ridiculous fight scenes, which are predicated on Artie using his knowledge of video game sword fighting (and some magical help from Excalibur, which is more believable) to turn him into an expert swordsman in about a week. Excalibur’s magic is a big deus ex machina, as anything Artie needs to know or do can be handled by the sword (or its sheath).
I could go on, but I don’t see much point. Again, kids who don’t really care about anything but a fast ride will probably like it. It reads like the kind of adventure a kid would dream up for himself. But the overall world logic, reason for the fight, lack of substance, constant elevation of Artie as hero and king when all he’s really done is exist (basically making him out to be a hero without necessarily having the actions to support it) . . . I’m done. I’m not going to be reading anything else in this series. I rate this book Neutral.