This is an absorbing fantasy with an unusual 1950s U.S. setting that combines suspenseful detective fiction, coming-of-age, science fiction, and of course, dragons. There's magic, but not the kind you'd expect to go along with castles, knights, wizards, and round tables. Veteran author Patrick Ness skillfully weaves together themes as wide ranging as the Cold War, cult worship, alternative universes, the power of prophecy, and where the real magic in the world lies.
Things slow down a bit when the author explains, and some readers might feel he explains too much, about how the magic, the prophecy, and alternative universes work. But, overall, the plot moves along well. One of Ness' strengths is his fully developed characters. The good guys are easy to relate to and root for, and the bad guys have real dimension so you "get" them without liking them or what they do.