by Obert Skye
The author of the "Leven Thumps" quintet brings us this first book in an exciting new series which, strangely enough, seems to be packaged for an age group younger than its main character. When we first meet Beck Phillips, the smart-mouthed, fifteen-year-old mischief-maker has just lost his mother, a casualty of mental illness. Abandoned by his father at an early age, Beck has nobody except an uncle he has never heard of until the latter sends for him.
Even after a spooky train ride to a secluded valley, followed by a chauffeured drive up a mountain to the enormous mansion that will now be his home, Beck's resentment understandably grows. His Uncle Aeron lives as a recluse in the copper dome above the seventh floor, and seems uninterested in meeting the boy. The small staff keeps the huge old house up as best they can, occasionally selling pieces of furniture to pay the taxes, and they refuse to explain the reasons for all the strange rules they impose on Beckrules such as "Don't go in the back yard" and "There is no basement, there never was a basement, and even if there was a basement, you are never to go down there."
Pretty soon Beck is in trouble at school, as he discovers that making enemies is only the least of his gifts. Even his two best friends show concern when Beck proves that he can make plants move and grow at his command. And that's before his exploration of all the forbidden places in and around his new home lead him to discover his family's long tradition of hatching dragons to pillage the countryside for them. Before Beck understands what is truly at stake, he is caught up in a scaly, fire-breathing, winged disaster that all goes back to an evil magician's curse. And unless Beck breaks the curse, either he or his newfound father will die a horrible death.
This is an exciting, scary, and emotionally complex book, beyond anything that the cover design and marketing would lead you to expect. Beck's first-person narration laces the drama and adventure with irreverent humor and teenage rebellion. And while the full realization of what he is up against builds slowly, its unfolding is rigged with cool surprises—including betrayal, deception, insane heroism, and the discovery of both friends and enemies in unexpected quarters. It is such a fun book that it may be hazardous to come to its end without having the sequel, titled Choke, on deck.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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