Peter Stewart – 14 year old boy who is a total science geek (in a good way, in my opinion). He is stellar at all things math and science and is bored in his normal high school as a result. Unfortunately, it also makes him kind of an outcast.
Lily Portman – 14 year old new girl at school. She’s an orphan and has been a foster kid forever because all her families think she is nuts because she can see the penumbra (think spirits who influence the living). When she arrives, she meets Peter and his dad and sees that they don’t have a penumbra either (she doesn’t as all seers don’t) and they are the first other people she has met without them.
Cole Jefferson – two years younger than Peter, but his best friend.
Brock Jefferson – Cole’s older brother. Soccer star and all around jerk to Peter and Cole.
Bruce Stewart – Peter’s dad. Works as a physicist at the local university. He has told Peter tales of King Arthur and magic for years.
Kane – one of the Watchers (the group watching and protecting King Arthur’s descendants through time, watching out for the “Child of the Prophecy”.
Isdemus – head of the Watchers and someone Bruce has always spoken about.
Shadow Lord – the big bad evil who wants to take over the world. He
Nimbi – good magical creatures. Sort of the opposite of the penumbra. A few key nimbi: Dan, Sully and Jael
Locations: England (and Carlion and Avalon)
Main Premise: Magic is real. There is a prophecy, that a descendant of King Arthur will once and for all defeat the Shadow Lord. Peter thinks he is just a normal kind (even though he is super smart and loves physics and hates school). He is skeptical of some of the things his father says and believes because they are inconsistent with the laws of science Peter knows so well. Lily shows up one day and her “weirdness” shows immediately being a seer who can hear and see the penumbra. Brock, on a bet, takes Lily to the movies and Cole and Peter meet them there. On the way home, Kane (determined to prove that Peter is not the child of the prophecy) sets up an accident. The kids end up thrown into the world of magic, where there is a prophecy that says the descendant of King Arthur will defeat the Shadow Lord once and for all. Kane thinks he might be the child of the prophecy. The Watchers think it’s Peter. The Shadow Lord captures Bruce and Brock so that Peter will come after them. Peter and friends do go to save Bruce and Brock. A battle ensues, with lots of magic performed by both sides.
How it Ended: Bruce, Brock and everyone except Kane escape the Shadow Lord when the castle blows up. Kane jumped into the water (the lake) and is likely after Excalibur. It is unclear who the child of the prophecy is. Is seems to be Peter – we have seen him able to change the time line/events, but it isn’t certain.
Other Important things to remember for later:
there were three people the prophecy could have referred to – that the Watchers knew about. But the Watchers only watched the male first born line of descendants of King Arthur. Kane is Peter’s fraternal twin. His body wasn’t found when the Fata Morgana blew up (after he dove into the lake) and so it is assumed that Kane was really after Excalibur and is somewhere between worlds. It is possible Lily is the Child of the prophecy as her birthday is the same. Now that everyone has become part of the world, Isdemus helped find their gifts (Cole can heal, Lily can manipulate magnets/create magnetic fields; Bruce helped Brock discover he can manipulate earth and rocks) and they are all staying in Carlion. The prophecy says that Excalibur will bring back the Shadow Lord and destroy him. The philosopher’s stone is what allowed the castle to become part of both worlds to begin with and has all sorts of powers. Isdemus thinks there is an informant in the ranks of the Watchers, but we don’t know who. Lily, Cole and Peter know about the secret Watcher library (Kane told Peter who told the others).
Had my college physics professor used this book to explain things, or at least reduced some of the tougher concepts down to the distilled version we get in Intangible, by C.A. Gray, I totally might have done better in class. At least it would have held my attention longer and I wouldn’t have wanted to throw myself off the roof tops of the science building before every physics exam. Using physics to explain magic was a brilliant way to keep the fantastical story some-what grounded in realty. It was also a great way to allow a character to explain certain elements or foundation blocks of the world being created, without it feeling forced.
I thought there were so many wonderful aspects of this story. The writing was good and the characters were believable. What was I excited about? Lots. While there are lots of things that reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, that was ok. Let’s face it, while teleportation (or Apparition as JKR calls it) isn’t exactly a concept unique to Harry Potter, the **crack** associated with that action is something that reminds me specifically of Harry Potter. Here’s what you get to read about (and what made me think of Harry Potter): magical creatures (the one nimbi reminded me so much of Peeves); battles with real swords and with magical force fields alike (a dime-a-dozen in this genre); a prophecy (Order of the Phoenix and Prof. Trelawney); a secret city – castle and all – in the middle of England that people can’t find or if they stumble on it, it looks old and run-down (Hogwarts or the Quidditch WC Field); books which show the reader things (Tom Riddle’s diary showing Harry the (planted) Aragog scene); magical coins that get warm under certain conditions (Dumbledore’s Army’s fake galleons); the Ancient Tongue (sounded a lot like various spells and charms – I was waiting for wingardium levosia); tapping the wall to enter the secret library (getting from the Leaky Cauldron to Diagon Alley); the Sorcerer’s Stone (do I really even need to do the comparison?) and the old grey haired wise man of Isdemus (Dumbledore, anyone?). And there were ideas that weren’t necessarily reminiscent of Harry Potter, but were certainly not new to the genre (multiple people the prophecy could be about, even at the book’s end; use of other dimensions; the trio of kids (Peter, Lily and Cole) who almost always seem to be 2 boys and 1 girl; parent’s hiding stuff from the children; a long-lost twin; etc.). That said, there were also some unique ideas. I point again to the intertwining of physics and actual science with the story. And, it at least felt like the author did some excellent research in preparing to write this.
For the most part, the book was well paced and there was plenty of action and magic. The plot is off to a good start and there’s lots of room for character development and a good base of it too. I am hard pressed to find much to criticize. While the earlier comparison to Harry Potter may seem like criticism, it isn’t. While there were similarities, there were also plenty of differences and nuisances that made it clear that even if JK Rowling’s wonderful works were inspiration, there is definitely a different story at work here. All the King Arthur mythology driving the story is a nice difference. This installment is clearly a set up for what I see goodreads has as two more books. And it was a well crafted start. The world building was just enough to set the tone and create a well developed picture but there is still room for so much more. There was only one thing that felt a tiny bit off, and that was around a decision of Peter’s – because I didn’t feel we (or Lily) had quite enough history with him to justify or expect certain self-destructive behavior. But that was easily forgotten and forgiven with the action that followed. I also think the action, the magical battle, was well paced and written and I can’t remember reading a battle that took so much care to explain it all and have everything line up, in quite some time. Well done!
Overall, I can’t wait to read the next installment.