What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is some fantasy violence here, not especially graphic, some mild swearing, and several of the characters engage in sexist talk.
What's the story?
Charlie discovers that he has the power to bring monsters into our world from the Netherworld -- in fact his power may be the strongest ever -- so he is taken to Nightmare Academy to learn how to control his power and use it to help the Nightmare Division keep the world free of monsters. But once there he accidentally opens a portal to Barakkas, one of the Named, the four most powerful monsters, and discovers a plot by the Named to unleash the monsters of the Netherworld on Earth.
Is it any good?
Let's grant all the obvious criticism right up front. Yes, this bears more than a passing similarity to the story of another boy who goes off to boarding school to learn magic. Yes, the plot is derivative and predictable, and the characters are flat clichés. But if the variations are intriguing, the action exciting, and the pacing tight, it hardly matters. This book is just fun.
First-time novelist Dean Lorey joins the ranks of screenwriters who have made the transition to children's books, and found that their cinematic skills stand them in good stead in their new endeavor. Visual imagination, crisp pacing, and clear plotlines are helpful, if not essential, for both, and Lorey has those down pat. This may not be great literature, but it's well-written, and does what it sets out to do quite well. Many kids, including some who are nearing but not quite ready for Rowling, and others who are reluctant readers, will find lots to enjoy here.
From the Book:
Towering over him, it raised its long, curved stinger, preparing to strike. A thick, poisonous-looking fluid oozed from the tip. Charlie's knees went watery and he dropped to the ground.
"Don't," he said.
The monster's tail whistled furiously down toward him with the force of a sledgehammer.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the Rowling formula. Does it bother you when books follow a similar path to the Harry Potter books? Or do you like it? What makes one version of the formula successful and another not? How is this one different from Harry Potter? Is it the similarities or differences that you like? Did Rowling invent the formula, or can you think of similar stories that came before her?