It’s hard to tell when someone’s soul changes, especially when dark energy is around.
One day, Henry’s father leaves for work like usual but never comes home. Left to fill his father's shoes with his younger siblings, eighteen-year-old Henry convinces his mother to book a family vacation at a remote cabin. He quickly realizes they were in a mysterious land when he and his ten-year-old brother Moris find two strange horns and are thrown into a far-away universe where wizards are real and magic rules.
The brothers soon find themselves smack in the middle of a wizard war between the Veneficums and the Milaculums. Both groups are fascinated by the humans . . . and the horns they carry. The boys have no idea one horn has dark powers and alters the soul of the one who carries it. They just want to get home again, but someone in the wizard world wants to use the horns’ power for dark purposes and will stop at nothing to get them.
In a strange world where wizards fight each other and are not what they seem, who can the brothers trust? More importantly, how will they ever get home alive?
Kalifa introduces an expansive world rich with strange creatures and wizards who have clashing motives. After a brief introduction to their life on Earth, Henry and Moris quite literally fall into the middle of a fantasy, and they go through trials and tests independently to learn about themselves along the way, as Kalifa crafts an increasingly complex relationship between the two. When Moris, who is “obsessed with magic” finally finds the power he’s dreamed of, the cost of his revelation may be more than the boys are willing to pay–and after they encounter new friends and an appealing new world, their desire to go back home to those they’ve left behind is at risk.
Kalifa’s storyline is well-planned, easily paving the way for the next in the series, but at times he sacrifices character development for intense world building and plot formation. Switching between the perspectives of two brothers emphasizes an engaging family dynamic that makes the narrative relevant for middle grade and YA readers—although readers may find the somewhat traditional fantasy world of Dantus familiar. The teaser of an ending will leave fantasy fans eager to catch the next story.
Takeaway: A middle grade fantasy novel that emphasizes family bonds, perfect for readers who can’t get enough of magic, wizards, and traveling between worlds.
Great for fans of: Victoria Aveyard’s Realm Breaker, David Levithan’s The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S., Jenny McLachlan’s The Land of Roar.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-