The story’s beginning is rather abrupt, as Fields quickly delves into the fantasy aspects, a choice that at first makes the characters, who we’ve spent too little time with in the real world, feel a touch underbaked. However, once they arrive on the shores of this other dimension, the leads flower into distinct and convincing personalities, and Fields keeps readers on their toes with lightning-paced transitions and supercharged magic. In their quest to save Kai and go home, they encounter a riddling rabbit, a nightmarish middle school run by monsters, a friendly village of young magicians, and a greedy bird woman named Ava Rice. Fields brings the story to a sudden close as well, revealing loads of backstory right before the final battle, but despite the pacing issues, there’s a genuine sense of warmth in the friendships that Jalen makes along the way.
A flashback to Jalen's past reveals unresolved guilt, and a pep talk from a village elder motivates him to keep going, despite the odds stacked against him. Fields makes a point of having a diverse cast without treating them as tokens, especially in regards to Ram. Velasquez's expressive art communicates a great deal of nuance in relating unspoken feeling and essential information, and the open-ended conclusion points to potential and welcome future installments.
Takeaway: This YA fantasy boasts a diverse cast, classic quest storytelling, and appealing art.
Great for fans of: Jason Walz’s Last Pick: Rise Up; Tom King’s Heroes in Crisis.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A