Sunday, January 13, 2008

Anne Patrice Brown

The Dumari Chronicles: Year One
by Anne Patrice Brown
Recommended Age: 13+

The author of this pretty much self-published series contacted me through MuggleNet and asked me if she could send me her book. I told her to go ahead, but not to expect me to get to it right away. I got to it right away, though. I can't say why it felt like the next book I must read. The cover wasn't terribly interesting; just the title and author's name on a neutral background, with a gold Euro sign flipped sideways in the center. I doubt it was the Euro that did it.

For whatever reason, I read the book right off, and I'm ready to recommend it. It may be just what bereaved Harry Potter fans need, now that their favorite saga has ended. Why? Because this book is, in many ways, the total opposite of the Harry Potter series. Yes, there are witches and wizards, and some of them are kids. But everything else is quite different, as the book's introduction frankly admits.

In The Dumari Chronicles, young "magicals" don't go to a special school. They blend with non-magicals and keep their powers as secret as they can. Magic runs in families. Moira's family, for instance. Moira's mother and stepfather are magicals, and her younger half-sister Ainsley is a magical, but her no-good deadbeat Dad isn't, and neither is her old brother Devon. Moira herself is magical, but she tries to deny it, and vows not to do any actual magic. Partly this is because she is going through a rebellious phase, with all the bad attitude, grungy clothing, hairstyle, tattoos, and piercings that go with it. Part of the bad attitude has to do with her feelings about how her father stopped visiting her and Devon. She blames the magic.

Moira doesn't make things easy for herself, or anyone else around her. At first this is all bad news for her twin cousins Brody and Braidy, a gawky teenage boy and his perfect-princess sister, respectively. But then the three of them are kidnapped by evil magicals who have deadly plans for two of them, and even worse things in store for the third. The kids don't understand why this is happening to them, but it has something to do with the Dumari - an especially powerful magical who bears a mark somewhat like a sideways Euro sign (hey, that's what it looks like to me). Maybe one of these three kids is the next Dumari; maybe it will be Ainsley. But the bad guys want to control whichever one it is...and the families just want their kids back.

Caught in the middle are three scared, clueless teens who soon escape their captors, only to find themselves lost in New York City with no money, no idea where to go or whom to trust, and no way to call home. As the evil magicals block off their means of escape and communication, Moira, Braidy, and Brody take an exhausting journey, never more than a step ahead of their pursuers...and often somewhat less!

This book is full of refreshing contrasts to the Harry Potter formula. On the other hand, one of those contrasts is a somewhat less engaging style. Some of the numerous characters were a little stiff and hard to distinguish from each other. At times I detected a "romance novelist" tendency to over-glamorize the characters, apart from the charmingly flawed and interesting main trio of characters; the romance genre flickered across my mind again and again as the parents and grandparents of the hero kids interacted and reacted to things that were going on.

When the narrative focused on the three kids, it was more interesting - especially what their dreams revealed about their different personalities and anxieties. The adventures they experience are exciting, and Moira proves to be handy to have around after all, bad attitude or no. Some of the other interesting characters include a young man who seems destined for an interesting role in upcoming books. And the climactic wrap-up leaves one with interesting, unanswered questions that may entice you into Year Two...romance fans especially.

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