In this young adult fantasy novel, a wicked magician fights battle with strange shadows and desires authority with his capability to confuse citizens as to what is true and what is not. Two heroes, however, stand in his way: Kelsey, who searches the kingdom in want of a special strategy to win the conflict against the dark spellcaster, and an aspiring magic user named Nicholas, receiving instruction to master his abilities. The book opens with a quote by Ralph Ellison about good fiction comprising of what is real, with reality allegedly hard to encounter.
The story opens with Kelsey finding that shadows, while not impossible to fight, do require one’s full attention. Nicholas is quickly introduced, as well, exploring the old Academy where he studied for two years. The novel alternates between serious portions, with Kelsey exhausted from constant participation in battle, and some humorous segments, such as Nicholas’s teacher attempting to shorten his robe through incineration of its bottom. Words play a significant role in the narrative, with a diagram partway through the story depicting the process of words mutating into something different.
The novel is generally enjoyable, with some insightful philosophy as to the nature of words, not to mention light and darkness, although there are a few occasional references to Bunsen burners that are anachronistic in this fantasy story allegedly occurring in an alternate reality from our own. Even so, Neftzger’s novel remains engaging throughout, and is very much recommended to its target young adult audience. Grownups too can enjoy the story, and despite its occasional shortcomings, most will be treated to a thought-provoking narrative that highlights potential philosophy in things we take for granted such as words.
Amy Neftzger is the author of fiction books for both adults and children. She has also been published in business and academic journals, as well as literary publications.
A few of her favorite things include traveling, books, movies, art, the Oxford comma, and gargoyles.