How can I tell you're not a cannibal zombie raven? You laugh at my riddle of greeting. If you're not amused, then you ate the flesh of your human amicus in a greedy quest for extra life and power to become a miserable valraven, and you've likely emerged from the netherworld kingdom of Aviopolis to do the bidding of the evil half-human, half-valraven Corax. He seeks the ancient magical artifact known as the torc to become even more powerful.
Corax also happens to be the uncle of Gabriel Finley, a 12-year-old boy with an affinity for riddles and ravens whose missing father happens to have hidden the torc. Gabriel lives in New York City with his Aunt while they wait for his father's return. As he gradually discovers his family's hidden history, he learns that birds can talk, magic is very real, and he has a very important role to play.
This well-written fantasy has appealing characters and an unusual approach to magic with a deep backstory. Young readers should find it most enjoyable.
While on the surface a standard tale of a magical boy on a perilous quest, this novel manages to insert a few quirky twists and turns. Avians play a large part in its story and thus we get to see and hear a lot of talking birds who help, hinder, give advice or silly gossip. The children in the story are all unique, with short paragraphs giving lucid insights into their natures.
Perhaps the only one who is really shortchanged in terms of characterization is Corax, a boy once handsome and admired who fell sway to the evil of a cursed torc. You wonder just why he succumbed so easily when his brother was able to resist. Storybook villains are often slighted in this way; we don’t even know quite how Septimus Geiger ended up in his clutches.
But the story is really good, the riddles amusing and genuinely hard (although the answers aren’t as difficult as you might imagine). It also promises to have a sequel. Wherever the torc is, it clearly isn’t finished with the Finleys.
An captivating fantasy involving ravens, riddles, and a battle over good vs. evil. As Gabriel seeks answers to his dad's mysterious disappearance, he develops friendships with both humans and birds, and discovers his own special destiny. Scenes with the desk are laugh-out-loud funny. A good choice for fans of Harry Potter and Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' series. Grades 4-7.
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