There are two types of books I read to my children. The ones I read to them and the ones I will read on my own after they’ve gone to bed (abandoning my normal mix of comic books and genre fiction).
The fact that I’m bringing this up should tell you what camp Spell Robbers (the first of three installments of Matthew J. Kirby‘s Quantum League) is in.
I’ve only recently been exposed to Middle Grade level novels. Not to be confused with grades in middle school. For those of you who don’t know it targets readers age 8 -12. From what I remember from the writing group I periodically attend this has historically been a hard group to break into because parents always have their go to favorites, which often times were there parents favorites.
But recently going through GoodReads it seems that there has been a lot of growth in recent years. I’m guessing because the target market still buys physical books. In any case, these books seem to be taking the space that comic books used to fill… when they were primarily sold to children in that same age group.
So getting back to the book and why I thought it was amazing. In a word: Drama. A lot of the elements can be found in other stories (regardless of their medium). Sorcery, Jedi Mind Tricks, Leagues of Superheros and Villains…. but these elements are surrounded by a well defined and imaginative context which makes them feel original and not at all a distraction from the continual escalating tension between the characters.
Personally, my favorite stories are ones where a virtuous hero faces an ethical dilemma on top of whatever other thing they are facing. Spell Robbers raises challenging questions about authority, power, good and evil, and collateral damage. These are grown up themes which makes it incredibly engaging for an 8 year old (my 5 year old did not share our enthusiasm).
An exciting story like Spell Robbers will usually result in fans craving for a movie. Surprisingly, I’m against that. The story is best told in a novel because what makes the familiar elements feel original can’t be translated well to film. And therefore a movie will seem derivative and sadly detract from an excellent story.
The book does not conclude with a cliff hanger, but it leaves plenty to be resolved in the next two installments. According to the author’s website the second book is completed, but it seems the publisher (Scholastic) hasn’t announced it’s release date.
If you, dear reader, know the release date then please let me know in the comments.