Dietz Vollrath, author
Eleanor is a quiet student at Penwick Academy, when she and several classmates are asked by a visitor to help crack a strange code. Doing this takes Eleanor deep into the rambling maze of libraries at Penwick, where she discovers that the code refers to an old ship that visited a mysterious island nearly a century ago. Trying to discover what the ship found there leads Eleanor into the most dangerous part of the city, a basement filled with liquid books, a chase through the sewer drains, and a dwarven jail cell. But Eleanor is not the only one chasing down the story of the ship, and a group known only as the Forgotten will stop at nothing to find out what she has learned. Eleanor has to race to stay ahead of the Forgotten and protect the secret of the ship before they uncover it.
Evoking a sense of wonder and joy, Vollrath’s debut, set in the fictional port city of Flosston Moor, follows Eleanor Wigton as she starts her second year at the prestigious Penwick Academy. Magic is banished—supposedly dead—after a fire ripped through part of the city. Eleanor is a quiet, studious 12-year-old—in fact, she’s first in her class. Despite her youth, and perhaps because of her sterling reputation, she and five older students are chosen to work on a secret project, with the blessing of the headmistress. What follows is an adventure like no other, leading Eleanor and friends into a world of mysterious liquid books, Netherdoors, and dark Dwarven territories. Page-turning action entwines with familiar struggles, written in a way that calls to mind similar fantasy novels (students at Penwick must choose between houses/specializations such as Numerancy, Navigation, and Barristers). Yet Vollrath’s story stands firmly on its own merits as it explores Eleanor’s internal and external journeys, friendships, the other (dwarves, namely), and the good and bad decisions made by young and old alike. Ages 10–up. (BookLife)