Author: Ed Masessa
Henry Leach the VIII has just started trying to create wands, following the instructions in a book given to him by his father. But just as he feels it may really work, his life starts to fall apart. His father goes missing. His mother starts acting mysteriously. And he somehow manages to cast his first real spell on his little sister . . . Turns out the world is in a lot more trouble than he thought. And it may be up to him to help save everyone.
I wanted to like this so much more than I did. I liked Henry. He’s bookish and curious and willing to dig in to investigate the mysterious books he’s been given. Despite an awful life, he’s a pretty mellow kid and copes with the new surprises very well. I liked Randall, falcon of many secrets, especially once his story unfolded and we get to see some of what he’s been hiding. I liked Coralis, and his grouchy wisdom from ages past never quite meshing with the present. Powerful, oh yes, but severely out of touch, which may be his undoing.
But . . . Brianna. Clearly the author liked her FAR better than I ever will. Or Henry should. Henry is a nice young boy being mercilessly bullied by his younger sister, who uses her looks, age, and even a magical voice to perpetually get him into trouble and her off scot-free. Being siblings does not mean being FRIENDS, especially when she never, ever does anything except be a total brat. He ought to resent her, or at least be secretly happy when she gets turned into a hedgehog (which I still think is cheating. She deserved to be something small and vicious. It would reflect her better).
And she still gets to talk even after being transformed. UGH. She ought to have switched places with Randall. And had the same ending he did. Then I might’ve been able to muster up a twinge of sympathy. But only a twinge, because it’s hard to imagine her doing something noble for the right reasons. Henry has no right to feel sorry for her at the end, either—it’s not like she’s going to act with any more maturity.
And even without Brianna, I didn’t care for the villain. The only interesting one was the one who does the least. Dai She is an unfortunate conglomeration of stereotypes, whose evil is simply too cartoony to take seriously. And I didn’t much care for “evil moonbeams” as an explanation for why bad things happen.
All in all, despite some bits I really liked, I had to push myself to finish, because I kept hoping someone would throw Brianna at a wall and it never happened. A pity, because the magic system (apart from evil moonbeams) was fairly interesting, and I did like MOST of the characters. I rate this book Neutral.