Review copy provided by Tor Books.
There are some children’s books that are really all-ages books, classified as children’s books because they do nothing to exclude children. This is not one of them. This is a children’s book because if you have read very many books, it will no longer be very satisfying. It checks off the boxes, it does the things: portal fantasy, missing family quest, eeeeevil child therapist, “quirky” animal sidekicks with verbal tic but no real personalities, set catchphrase for young protagonist (“double ____ with _____ on top!”).
I was ready for something charming and not too demanding, after the…um…world I’d been having. And this was not too demanding. The kids found that the power was within them all along, they were really special for reasons, their family loved them and could be saved, there were various whimsical and nonthreatening creatures on their side, the threatening creatures didn’t threaten excessively. It was fast. I don’t think this would offend very many people except the ones who are offended by the existence of fantasy. I think it’s also sadly unlikely to be deeply charming to very many. This was a thing I read, and I read this thing. If it hits one of your buttons (griffins? portal fantasy? reunification of families?), here it is, fine enough.
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