The calculated invocation of too many tropes makes for a joyless fantasy debut. Aldwyn may be an orphaned alley cat with a mysterious past, but he has street smarts in abundance, so when young wizard-in-training Jack adopts him as his "familiar," Aldwyn knows he's on to a good thing. To secure his position among the other familiars--Skylar, the know-it-all bluejay, and Gilbert, the goofily genial tree frog--he pretends to possess magic as well. But when the three apprentice wizards are kidnapped by an evil sorceress, Aldwyn's lie puts their already-impossible rescue mission in danger. There isn't a fantasy clichÃÂ© left out of this tale nor anything particularly clever or original in their use. The familiars might as well have been named Harry, Hermione and Ron, with only the barest nod to nonhuman traits; the magical system is painfully muddled; the plot is driven by random encounters and ridiculous coincidences; the climactic Big Reveal is telegraphed far in advance; the denouement serves only as a blatant advertisement for a sequel. Pass. (Fantasy. 8-12)Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
After starving alley cat Aldwyn steals food from a fishmonger once too often, he is chased by a notorious bounty hunter intent on exterminating him. He takes refuge in a pet store that sells animal familiars to local wizards and is purchased by Jack, a young apprentice. Aldwyn likes his cushy new life in Stone Runlet with Jack and two other students, but he struggles to convince his fellow familiars--a blue jay named Skylar and a tree frog named Gilbert--that he's as magical as they are. When a prophecy foretells that three spell-casters from Stone Runlet will save the world, the formerly benevolent Queen Loranella kills the students' mentor and takes the young novices prisoner, leaving it to the familiars to rescue the children. Screenwriters Epstein and Jacobson's children's book debut is a grand adventure with entertaining characters and magic-induced fun, written in an appropriately cinematic style (Sony Pictures Animation has optioned the story). Even adults will appreciate a tale in which street smarts mix with book learning, and resourcefulness and confidence are matched by loyalty and respect. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
Gr 4-7--This series opener won't disappoint. Escaping from a bounty hunter, a streetwise cat becomes the familiar of a boy magician-in-training. Almost before Aldwyn gets to know his new surroundings, Jack, his sister, and a fellow student are kidnapped and it is up to him; Skylar, a magic-adept bluejay; and Gilbert, a clumsy, red-eyed tree frog, to rescue their "loyals." The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. The characters are genuinely familiar: Aldwyn feels inadequate and works hard to conceal his humble origins; Skylar has secretly studied human magic and can be arrogant about her abilities; bumbling Gilbert thinks mostly about food and fears the father he has disappointed. The history of the queendom of Vastia is smoothly worked into the narrative. This winning combination of action and humor will keep readers turning pages right up to the ending, which successfully concludes this adventure but leaves room for more.--Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD[Page 98]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.