Friday, April 22, 2022

The Midnight Mercenary

The Midnight Mercenary
by Cerberus Jones
Recommended Ages: 10+

Amelia's family operates a fancy, old-fashioned hotel on a headland overlooking the sea. The place has a local reputation for being haunted, but there's a reason for that, which Amelia and her best friend Charlie, the housekeeper's son, are sworn to keep secret: in a cave below the hotel, there's actually a gateway where a system of wormholes brings alien travelers from all over the universe. It's so crazy, even Amelia's older brother James hasn't accepted it yet. And yet her pet dog Grawk is not of this world.

One night when the weather is as scary as it can be, something even scarier arrives in the gateway: an evil mercenary named Krskn who apparently plans to kidnap an alien child from a group of last-minute guests. And just to make the night even more confusing and challenging, the holographically disguised kids show up at the same time as a lost troop of real, human scouts. By the time Amelia and Charlie realize Krskn is already inside the hotel, an alien child has been abducted. And so have both of Amelia's parents. To save them, the friends must discover a spooky part of the hotel they never knew existed, face a terrifying villain with a gadget designed for carrying abductees to a slave market, and somehow make friends with beings who ooze slime that burns human flesh.

Learning to embrace the strange and different is a theme of this adventure, not only for Amelia and Charlie but for James as well. Telling the difference between friend and foe, no matter their disguise, is another. And of course, this book introduces a recurring villain whose long-standing evil has made him kind of a "He Who Must Not Be Named" figure in the Gateway world. Despite the (slight spoiler) horrible comeuppance he gets in this outing, you can bet he hasn't played his last trick on the kids and their hotel family.

This is the third of eight chapter books in "The Gateway" series by an Australian author who is actually two or three people. And although Amazon (as of the date I created the link above) seems to want an extortionary $10.28 for a book I was able to order online for only $4.69, I'll forego repeating what I said here and just say, it's a fun book and if you think you'd like it, shop carefully and compare prices.

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