Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Revenge of Magic

The Revenge of Magic
by James Riley
Recommended Ages: 11+

Fort Fitzgerald has nobody in the world except his dad – well, there's an aunt, I suppose, but she's barely out of college – and then, one day while they're visiting the Lincoln Memorial together in Washington, D.C., Fort watches helplessly while a monstrous hand claws its way out of the earth, snatches his father and drags him back underground. It turns out to have been one of two simultaneous attacks in the D.C. area – the other destroying the National Security Agency building – but Fort's dad is the only casualty the public knows about.

For some reason, this draws the interest of a top-secret school. They recruit him to join a class of youngsters, all 13 or younger, and all (except Fort) with the same birthday. For some reason, only kids in that age group can learn from a set of books of magic that were all discovered on the same day, in different parts of the world, 13 years ago. The Oppenheimer School, at a secret location patrolled by armed soldiers, is preparing a defense against further attacks like the one that destroyed the National Mall and the NSA building. A magical defense, to be precise.

Fort has a tough time adapting to the campus. Some of the students, specializing in destructive magic, are vicious bullies. Others, who like Fort are meant to be learning healing spells, don't trust him. Some members of the faculty believe that Fort's arrival puts the school in terrible danger. As an excuse to kick him out, they set him an impossible task – giving him three days to master three spells that would take most students almost a month to learn. And on top of everything else, a former student no one will talk about has invaded Fort's mind, sending him terrifying visions and enabling him to hear people's thoughts.

I'm going to leave my synopsis right there, except to add that this book builds up to a terrifying climax – setting Fort opposite a surprisingly dark threat to the entire world, and at the same time, against his own anger and desire for revenge. With voices in his head, some quirky friends (well, they'll become friends eventually) and a handful of spells that he shouldn't know how to use at this early stage in his training, he faces off against horrors from beyond the universe that, in my opinion, pushed this book right to the limit of age-appropriateness, if not beyond. But it's also, I must say, awesome.

This is the first book in the "Revenge of Magic" series, which continues in The Last Dragon, The Future King and the recently released The Timeless One. A fifth installment, The Chosen One, is scheduled for release in March 2021. James Riley is also the author of three "Half Upon a Time" books and five "Story Thieves" books.

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