When her brother vanishes in the night along with all she thought to be true of magic, Parker Pennymore must unmask family secrets, travel far beyond the castle walls, and convince her sisters to break a few laws along the way. The Pennymores delivers on its promise, as a beautifully written, uniquely conceived world of adventure, with twists, turns, and surprises that keep the reader guessing all while putting the magic of writing on full display. An absolutely captivating story and a cast of characters, we couldn’t put down until the end.
The titular character of The Pennymores, Parker Pennymore, simply leaps off the page and into our imaginations much like other fantasy stalwarts Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Lucy Pevensie (Narnia). Parker is an 11-year-old who has an authentic spunky-rebellion perfectly mixed with pre-teen self-consciousness. Readers will want to hug her, help her, and find themselves deeply rooting for her success along the way. She’s got that funny, impulsive, exuberant, and unpredictable nature inside her… and as our hero wants nothing more than to be a writer and a storyteller.
And that’s where the uniqueness of the Pennymores truly takes flight: Parker is forbidden from writing.
The wonder of The Pennymores is built from this key detail: magic isn’t cast with a wand, it’s written with a quill. This dynamic creates the perfect setting for adventure, intrigue, conflict, and whimsy. Centuries ago, a great war caused the ancients to ban all magic writers, but eventually, anti-writing zealots (appropriately named the Illiterates) used mob rule to stop all writing. Except magic writing didn’t truly disappear… it went underground. And the Pennymore family is full of secrets none of these children could have ever realized.
It’s this clever and unique take on a fantasy world that provides a rich setting for the adventures of Parker and her sisters Quinn and Aven. Each of the siblings is unique, funny, quirky, and integral to the story. But it’s the interplay between them that drives the story forward.
Now as tensions spark throughout Fonde and Parker’s home kingdom of Everly, these three sisters and a group of other kid writers (the Plumes) find themselves in a conflict that I’m certain will be able to fill our shelves for years to come in the Pennymores series. As they begin their quest, there are nods to other mystical creatures and worlds, and hints of more to be exposed. Additionally, Koester creates conflict and villains that aren’t the standard “bad guys set out for destruction”, but offers a humanizing look at figures who are in many senses well-intentioned but misguided. It’s this ambiguity and the surprises and twists in the story that will keep the reader guessing as to which sides everyone is on in this book and likely beyond.
The story was created much the way Percy Jackson and The Lord of the Rings began—as oral bedtime stories from a parent to children—and Koester shares how he worked with his daughters (who share first names with the Pennymore sisters) to create the imaginative, creative settings in the book. But perhaps more than the fantasy aspects, it’s the family, parental, and sibling relationships that showed complexity and love that readers will appreciate the most. And any writer, author, or librarian will absolutely love the small details and winks to the craft of writing, storytelling, and authorship.
The Pennymores & the Curse of the Invisible Quill is a supernatural adventure story, filled with atmosphere, twists, the sublime and dripping with heart that fans of classic young adult and middle-grade fantasy stories from Harry Potter to Percy Jackson, and from Narnia to The School of Good & Evil will love. (Fantasy. 8-12)