Two years ago, Ben Greenwood's parents walked out the door and never returned. The police have all but given up finding them when Ben stumbles upon a peculiar letter addressed to his dad. “You are the most wanted man in the Unseen Kingdoms. Unless you come to us, we cannot help. For your child's sake, tell us what you know.”
The letter is from an organisation called the Royal Institute of Magic and is dated a day before his parents disappeared. Like most people, fourteen-year-old Ben hasn't the faintest idea what the Royal Institute of Magic is, but he has his first clue: the logo on the letter.
Armed with nothing but his wits and the help of his good friend Charlie, Ben sets out to find the Institute and, through them, his parents. To succeed, he will have to navigate a land filled with fantastic creatures and Spellshooters, where magic can be bought and sold, to unravel an ancient family secret that could hold the key to defeating an evil the Institute has been fighting for the last five hundred years.
Do you remember what it felt like when Harry Potter first glimpsed the wonders of Diagon Alley? The Royal Institute of Magic introduces an entirely different world, but that sense of wonder is the same. From subway trains that blink and turn into dragons to spells bought from bargain-loving goblins, our hero navigates this new world admirably despite never before realizing that there was magic hiding beneath the city streets of London.
The world-building is my favorite part, but there's plenty of action to keep the plot moving, a lovable sidekick, and lots of other interesting side characters. This is clearly the beginning of a series, but you're not left dangling at the end, just itching to learn about Ben's next adventure.
From start to finish this is an absolutely gripping read! Like some of the classic teen fantasy novels through the years this has that extra magical something which immerses you into a world that's just so much more exciting and interesting than our own. I found myself very quickly rooting for the protagonist, and just couldn't stop turning the pages until I knew what happened to him.
I'm in my mid twenties but am a big fan of teen fiction that is well written (and it's unfortunate that these days there is so much that panders to the obvious clichés and altogether omits good writing), and Kloss hasn't disappointed me one bit. He doesn't dumb-down or patronise; he weaves a brilliantly told story which I hope will be enjoyed by generations. Definitely worth the read!
Great story, believable and lovable characters. If you enjoyed Harry Potter you'll love this. It's nice to find a book that you want to squeeze any spare moment into reading, and this was one of those. I look forward to the sequel! My dad doesn't like fantasy or fiction much as a rule but even he enjoyed it - I read it on his recommendation.