“A lightning bolt erupted from the cloud and aimed directly at Ned’s heart. He couldn’t cry out. He couldn’t even move. He could just feel the magic sink into his skin and spread itself over every inch of him, bubbling and slithering and cutting deep, until he didn’t know where the magic stopped and he began.”
When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.
In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?
With a deft hand, acclaimed author Kelly Barnhill takes classic fairy tale elements–speaking stones, a friendly wolf, and a spoiled young king–and weaves them into a richly detailed narrative that explores good and evil, love and hate, magic, and the power of friendship.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can’t recall the last time I enjoyed a book for children as much as I did this one.
What made me love this book more than anything else was the original elements the author used to describe magic. Rather than just doing the usual “boy has powers” type of thing, Kelly Barnhill went a completely different direction. The magic in this book is a living, breathing thing and it permeates every page with creativity.
This is a book that I would be happy to share with my children, knowing that it will set their imaginations ablaze and make them dream of things bigger than the reality they see every day. If you are looking for a great chapter book for kids, this is the one you have been waiting for.
The idea of the one boy actually being a combination of himself and his brother was interesting, and I think the author really did an excellent job of expanding on that idea throughout the story. The dual main characters and the portions of the book with the stones made for a very exciting adventure (even for me who is often jaded by having read too many books with magical elements.)
Overall, this was a pleasant surprise and a book that I happily recommend. You don’t have to be a child to enjoy it.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided by Netgalley. All opinions are my own.