The story starts off fast and it took me a little while to get my bearings, but I am now hooked. The action starts right off the bat as we meet the Smith children, Cyrus, Antigone, and Dan. They are living in a run down hotel without their father and with a mother in the hospital. Wilson drew me right into the scene and I could see the old rural hotel and smell the waffle maker just as he describes it. I will have to buy the second book in the series soon. It reminds me a little of the Percy Jackson books, but the writing is much more literary and stylish. Wilson spends some good time developing his characters, and the brother/sister dynamic comes off well. I think that it adds greatly to the whole of the book to see the two Smith kids interact while battling evil or just trying to get a meal in.
One of my concerns in children’s literature is the portrayal of parental figures. Wilson again does a good job of not making adults the totally stupid ones, while the kids just save the world. Through their journey, Cyrus and Antigone must take advice from adults and rely on them. This is done in a positive way that adds to the worth of the whole book.
The book can be graphic at times, as the struggle to survive and find meaning envelop the characters. I think it is in good taste, and it is mild compared to other offerings out there. N.D. Wilson created quite a complex world of bad guys and big places, serving up a playground for the imagination.
Great story for Upper Elementary or Middle School age boys, especially. The themes and situations are truly redemptive in nature, and N.D.’s world reflects the truth of God’s world and how good and evil work. There is no false praise of evil or it’s devices. As a Christian parent of two little boys, I will not be reading this one to them in the near future, but I think it will be fun to point them to the words that are spirit and life, as we enjoy this adventure.
UPDATE: Not as amazed with the second book, The Drowned Vault. Too much action and craziness all fit together. I am anxious to see how the whole series will work in concert.