Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Danny Caulfield had me at hello. This book takes me back to the time I first came across a young wizard with glasses who was heading to Hogwarts. However, with this main character – Mr. Caulfield – there is an extremely interesting twist.
When Danny was little (says his mother) he had to go through an operation that left him a bit different: His eyes are two different colors; he has slightly pointy ears; a sharp chin; and, a triangular-shaped face. Poor Danny isn’t looking forward to the private school called Heston Oaks that his parents are making him attend this coming year. He wants to stay with the people he knows and not be sent to some strange school in the middle of nowhere. Of course, his parents don’t even seem to care. His father is never home, and his mother rushes out every night saying she has an appointment and will see him later – which she never does.
One evening, an old black taxicab pulls up in front of Danny’s house with a strange driver in the front seat; this is his ride to the school that’s already scaring him to death. Through the night, the cab seems to fly – stopping only once at a checkpoint that feels to Danny as if he is entering a third world country and has to go through security in order to make it to the other side. When the journey finally comes to an end, they pull up in front of a huge castle decorated with moss-covered urns, moldy buttresses, and old, rusty statues of strange beings staring down at him through the ancient ivy.
Soon, Danny is shown around and introduced to the man running the joint – Master Devoy, and his “helper,” Marcus Brunholm. Turns out that this “school” is actually a school for the teaching of…wait for it (I love this) an Academy for the teaching of devious arts. Camouflage, concealment, and deception are the subjects being taught inside these walls – even the school newspaper is called The Covertian.
Danny is taken to Ravensdale, which is an old village that is located inside the castle walls. This is a place filled with shadows and whispers, where some of the best spies in the whole world were trained. Sitting in Ravensdale are the other students, because this is the place where the cadets eat their meals. A lot like Fagin’s boys from Oliver Twist, we are introduced to Less Knutt, who has wings tipped with gold and is a natural thief; a young lady named Dixie Cole who has the ability to appear and disappear at will, and is more than a little “out there.” We have a girl named Vanda who is a “sort-of” medical professional who can take diseases away from people and bring them on herself; and, there’s even a young man named Toxique who is at the school learning the family business (he comes form a long line of professional assassins).
Danny is fitted with his own spy “kit” almost immediately, which includes items such as cyanide pills, stiletto knives, piano wire, cameras…that are all put into the pockets of a magic concealment coat. Soon, Danny notices that someone is out to get him, as attempts are made on his life. He meets up with McGuiness who is a spy’s cop – sort of like Internal Affairs, trying to figure out who is attempting to take Danny out while he’s inside the gates of the Academy.
When all is revealed, Danny’s looks come into play. He has the features of the “enemy” – a group known only as the Cherbs who run the Ring of Five. This Ring is looking for their fifth member, who they haven’t been able to find as of yet. But, when they find him, they will be invincible, and take out the Academy so they can finally rule over the Upper World.
This book is a fantastic piece of YA fiction, and the upside is that it’s the first book in a series, so readers will be able to be charmed even further by Danny and his friends. From the Hall of Whispers, to the mighty, evil Seraphim, there is nothing about this book that is lackluster or boring in any way. Be like me and read this one right away so that you can join this author on his journey through a magically different, and completely engaging, new world.
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