Reading level: Middle Grade
Size: 496 pages
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st book in the Ashtown Burials series
Source: From Amazon Vine for Review
Rating: 4/5 stars
I got an advanced reading copy of this book to review through Amazon Vine. The book starts out a bit slow but ends up being a solid and engaging middle grade adventure and fantasy read.
Cyrus, Antigone, and Dan Smith live in a rundown motel that they barely make a living running. When an old tattooed man shows up demanding to stay in a certain room things start changing fast. Within hours of the man’s arrival the motel is burnt to the ground, Dan is missing, and Cyrus and Antigone are whisked away to the Order of Brendan.
I thought the book started a bit slow, but as it progressed it picked up pace quickly and introduced the reader to an adventurous and fantastical, if grungy, world. I liked that the book followed both Antigone and Cyrus; it made the book easy for both boys and girls to relate to and engage with.
The Order of Brendan is an order the kids’ parents belonged to and an Order that doesn’t like the Smith children much because of things that their past relations have done. Cyrus and Antigone are faced with with a lot of hatred from the moment they arrive at the Order of Brendan. They find help in unexpected places though and discover the secrets behind the keys and tooth that the old tattooed man left with Cyrus.
In their exploration of the halls and corridors of the Order of Brendan they find adventure and surprises at every turn. They also find some nifty magical items and meet some fascinating people. Soon though they are on a run for their lives as a very evil man seeks possession of the tooth that Cyrus was given.
Cyrus and Antigone were wonderful characters I enjoyed reading about them and enjoyed the stoicism with which they accepted all of the horrible situations they were put in. They always tried to make the best of things and persevere; they supported each other with bravery and determination.
I loved the Order of the Brenden and all of the secrets that were in its halls. There is a ton of adventure in this book. There are also traitors, spies, and some scary bits…so only for middle grade or older. I should mention the book takes place in a lot of creepy and gross settings. From the moldy and bug infested motel the characters start in, to the water-logged stone halls with scuttling Whip Spiders that they are forced to sleep in at the Order of Brendan; there is a lot of yucky in this book. I found myself wondering how they could ever sleep in those conditions and got a little itchy from time to time. Still, the descriptions were wonderful and really made the settings come alive.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was an excellent middle grade adventure fantasy and I enjoyed the world and the characters. You never knew what crazy character you would run into next or what fantastic magical thing you would find around the corner. I highly recommend this to fans of middle grade fantasy. If you enjoyed Fablehaven by Brandon Mull or The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens you should definitely give this book a try.