The Dungeoneers

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
The Dungeoneers Book Poster Image
Smart, funny fantasy strong on characters' bond.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Even aspiring thieves need to apply themselves in school, studying foes and puzzles they're likely to encounter and learning to work as a team.

Positive Messages

Rules are rarely as clear-cut as they may seem. The line between right and wrong can blur and move depending on your perspective: Empathy can help make sense of seemingly abhorrent behavior. Preparation and teamwork can make or break a mission.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Colm and his fellow dungeoneers work best in teams, relying on one another's skills to see them through safely. Colm's heart is in the right place, but his moral compass is still undecided. He and his friends second-guess some of their mentors' assumptions about fairness. Colm's family is loving and loyal, and they value honesty highly.

Violence & Scariness

Fantasy violence and peril: goblins, orcs, booby-trapped dungeons, giant spiders, and people who are quick to pull out swords and knives. Dungeoneering is deadly for the inattentive, ill-prepared, or unlucky. Theft is punished with the loss of a hand.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Dungeoneers is a thoughtful fantasy about a training school for dungeoneers, children who have been recruited to navigate deadly dungeons and steal treasure from monsters who've stolen the goods from others. Author John David Anderson (Sidekicked, Minion) again explores themes of fairness, justice, and morality, this time with barbarians and thieves instead of superheroes and villains. There's fantasy violence and peril: goblins, orcs, booby-trapped dungeons, giant spiders, and people who are quick to pull out swords and knives. Dungeoneering is deadly for the inattentive, ill-prepared, or unlucky. Theft is punished with the loss of a hand.

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What's the story?

Colm is anguished to see his cobbler father work so hard to try to support a family of 11 while others want for nothing. He has a natural talent for pickpocketing -- but his father insists he own up to his crimes. A smooth-talking rogue named Finn Argos offers another option: Colm could join Thwodin's Legion, a guild of dungeoneers who brave monsters and deadly traps to steal gold. Colm soon falls in with an aspiring barbarian, a gentle druid, and a stuttering spell-caster, all looking to prove themselves (and make a profit, of course). Colm quickly warms to the challenge of picking locks and disarming traps and grows fond of his new family. But a dangerous turn of events tests his loyalty to the guild -- and his nagging conscience.

Is it any good?

This smartly written tale of thieves, mages, swordmasters, and monsters is more about the relationship between a boy and his mentor than action-packed adventure. In THE DUNGEONEERS, John David Anderson brings the same grounded sensibility and wry humor that make his superhero-world novels such a joy to read.

Despite the thrilling fantasy backdrop and richly developed characters, Colm's tale isn't as absorbing as Anderson's earlier books. The most enjoyable scenes involve banter between Colm and clever, silver-tongued Finn and the childish, scene-stealing Thwodin. The action sequences are exciting but too few and far apart. Though fantasy fans may be slow to warm up, they'll find this book rewarding in the end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the appeal of stories about boarding school kids who have special talents. How does this compare with Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and similar series?

  • Anderson has written stories from the perspective of a superhero's sidekick and a villain's minion. Try turning the tables here: Would the messages about fairness and justice seem different if the story was told from Finn's point of view, or Thwodin's?

  • Try writing a chapter that picks up where the book leaves off.

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