by Kara Loo and Jennifer Young, published 2008
“If the difference between a surviving group of students and a dead group of students is that a thief managed to sneak behind the enemy and steal a magic weapon or incapacitate a skilled mage, then it’s well worth risking moral ambiguity.”
Here’s a children’s book that is just non-stop adventure from chapter to chapter, as well you might expect with its title. Well-written and fast-paced, each of the main four characters in the book is artfully described and utterly likeable. In the end, we see that the biggest theme of the book is loyalty and friendship, to the point of sacrificing one’s life. A big theme, yet done in a way that children can grasp, as the book is filled with the vision of what true nobility is. Throughout the book, magic is woven in as a given fact of life, and used in uplifting ways, such as healing and communicating.
I had no idea where this children’s book really was going, and in fact, the big real-life adventure in the story doesn’t come until the very end. Prior to that, the book is a mild version of Harry Potter at a wizard school. So for die-hard Harry Potter fans, the book may be too tame. However, I’m actually not a Harry Potter fan (after book 1) precisely because it gets too intense, which this book avoids. Even in the end, the drama is still light and fast. So in some ways, I would recommend this children’s book for younger (fifth grade) children sooner than I’d recommend the Harry Potter ones. That’s just me, of course, and not the millions of others who disagree.
In any case, this is a good read for boys or girls, probably 11 and up. There’s a sequel that just came out which I hope is as good as the first book. There’s also a fan website by the authors that goes along with the book.