by Platte F. Clark
Recommended Ages: 12+
Luckily, Max still has his father's book of spells, the Codex of Infinite Knowability, which gives Max some weapons to fight back with. To start, he saves a group of friends from being swept up in the Cataclysm that has turned plain old Madison into a haunt of howlers, heavily armed squirrels, and other threats. Well, they've been transformed a little bit. Max's gamer buddy Dirk has become a bard, with a talking lute that used to be (and still kind of is) Glenn the Motivational Dagger. Judo expert Sarah is, appropriately, a fighter. Several other kids from school, who happen to be into cosplaying, show up as real-life versions of their fantasy characters. But this may not be enough to get them through a middle school that has been transformed into a high-rise dungeon of doom, with a different challenge on each level (such as the Theater of Unfathomable Horror, which only plays Jaden Smith movies). At the top level is a school custodian who has been pushed just a little farther into psychosis, armed with "Mopdusa" and the ability to raise an army from urinal cakes.
You're probably thinking you see where this is going, but you're wrong. This conclusion to the "Bad Unicorn" trilogy (following Bad Unicorn and Fluff Dragon) continues there series' unbroken record of never doing the expected thing. There is a laugh on nearly every page, often from fantasy and gaming cliches turned topsy-turvy. There is pretty strong element of good versus evil, with the eyebrow-raising twist that it sometimes takes a good person to do an evil thing, and vice versa. There is a troubled hero who has to lose most of the stuff that makes him a hero before he can find the bit that really matters. There is a spellbook with a mind of its own, a formerly bad unicorn that went good and has now gone bad again, a wizard who can't stop thinking about bananas, and a door that hears people talking about breaking it down and says, "Wait a minute." The whole party of characters makes it fun. And it may just be me, but I think there's potential here for another sequel, in spite of the "third book of a trilogy" designation. If not, we can only hope Platte F. Clark will come up with another fun series soon.