Title: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters
Author: Margaret Dilloway
Series: Momotaro #1
Xander is, as far as he knows, normal. Which is why it comes as such a surprise to him when his father hands him a comic he supposedly drew (but doesn’t remember) and tries to explain he’s a descendant of the legendary Momotaro, the Peach Boy of Japanese mythology. Momotaro was an artist/warrior, and Xander . . . well, he draws. And he programs. But he’s going to have to figure out the rest of it fast, because he’s the only one available to stand up against the terrible oni bent on destroying the world and his family.
I had somewhat mixed feelings about this. I liked the spin on the Momotaro story, especially how the thread of the three companions (dog, pheasant, and monkey) works itself out. Especially the pheasant. I liked the Japanese myths and how they worked into the story, too. The oni come in many sizes and types, both friendly and not, and although some like the kappa or kitsune may be familiar, others are likely to be new. And I liked how Xander’s everyday life starts to blend and then totally collapses into this island of myths.
Peyton’s role in the story was both surprising and satisfying. He’s Xander’s childhood friend, despite them being opposites in most ways, and even though he doesn’t seem to have a place in Xander’s grand destiny as the descendant of Momotaro, he pledges to help in any way possible when Xander has to go after his father. And then the story twists a bit, and Peyton finds out he might have more of a role than he suspected. He’s the one who learns more than expected on the journey, and who shows he’s a different person by the end.
I wasn’t as fond of Xander. The contrast is meant to be rather sharp between who he is and who his esteemed ancestor was, and really, it wasn’t the non-athleticism that bothered me. It’s more that Peyton has a better character arc than he does. Xander gains a few powers, but he doesn’t really change. I have hopes that future adventures would push him farther. His computer abilities, for instance, don’t make much of a difference at all.
Overall this wasn’t a bad read, just one that wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped it would be going in. Some little details, like the clear MineCraft clone, annoyed me but kids might find it cool. I rate this book Recommended.