A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
There's some British contempt for the Middle East here, such as when a character refers to Egypt as "a filthy country."
Violence & Scariness
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Most of the adults smoke, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, and the twins are drawn to it. Adults drink brandy. The uncle blows amazing smoke rings, making it even more attractive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that an unnecessary prominence given to smoking is surprising, as is the rather positive attitude toward it taken by the author.
Is It Any Good?
This is very much a mixed bag. On the plus side, it's an original idea, well written, the descriptions are vivid, and fantasy fans will love the wealth of detail and history behind this particular view of the magical world. On the minus side, there's not much action, lots of exposition, and the child heroes never become real people in the reader's mind. Kids who love arcana, exotic settings, and children with secret powers will revel in the fascinating details, but those looking for adventure won't find much in the first half to keep them reading.
This is Philip Kerr's first book for children. Like many other adult novelists trying to make the transition, he needs to learn that different rules apply: The pacing is different, and kids prefer warm passion to cool detachment. There's a lot of potential for future books, but to be successful he will need to bring John and Philippa to life.
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Our Editors Recommend
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