Author: A.J. Hartley (UK/USA)
Age group in store: 11
Briefly, it's about:
Silbrica is a land populated by peaceful fairies, orc-like scrobblers, monstrous gnashers, and bodyless shadows called shades. The benign Guardian Council that holds this world together is starting to crumble, and wicked forces are amassing an army in preparation to invade our world.
Meanwhile, in our world, Darwen Arkwright is having a hard time fitting in at his new school. But school bullies quickly become the farthest thing from his mind when he finds a mirror that acts as a portal to Silbrica. He and two classmates embark on an adventure to not only to protect their own world, but to restore peace to another.
Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact is a quick read, with bite-sized chapters that fly by. A.J. Hartley draws on many of the same themes as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, as Darwen must ultimately allow his love to overcome his sadness about his parents' death. This book succeeds in clearly outlining a complicated plot, while avoiding lengthy exposition or unnecessary detail. There is a particularly nice thread in the book in which Darwen hopes that his parents' death (by car accident) has some meaningful connection to the battle between good and evil in Silbrica. In learning that this was not the case, and in a moving step towards maturity, Darwen finally confronts the reality that their death was nothing more than a tragic accident. Darwen's acceptance of this helps him to face the new shape of his life, having left everything he knew behind in England.
It's perfect for:
Fans of the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage, fans of The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin (reviewed here), fans of Reckless by Cornelia Funke (reviewed here), fans of The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby (reviewed here), fans of Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry (reviewed here), fans of Wildwood by Colin Meloy (reviewed here), fans of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, first-time fantasy readers.
# of stars:*** 1/2