The Perilous Realm: The Shadow of Malabron

by Thomas Wharton

The first book of the trilogy follows a boy named Will Lightfoot, whose father has packed his family up to move them across the country. Will is unhappy about moving away from the house he lived in when his mother was still alive, and as an act of defiance steals his father’s motorcycle to go to The Perilous Realm, a circus he sees from the highway. On his way, he crashes the motorcycle and is hurtled into a tumultuous alternate reality where the stories from our world originate. He teams up with a motley crew and sets out to find the gate through which he may return home.

This is an epic quest type of book, with references to Lord of the Rings, Little Red Riding Hood, and the King Arthur legends. The idea of a world where all of our stories originate is super interesting, as is the idea that malicious characters can wage wars within that world in order to make all stories their own. The ideas are what made this not a tedious read for me, but the characters are so stock it hurts. What? A boy who is secretly special? A feisty girl who is smarter than the boy but who has no character development? How about a wise old man who knows everything but says very little at a time? The reviews of this book all laud Wharton’s writing style, but the first 80 pages are brutally amateurish. Will looked into the shards of mirror and got that feeling–you know, the one where you know the person looking back at you isn’t you but some malevolent force that now knows your thoughts and memories and will try to find you to harm you? Get that one every morning! The book does pick up, though, and the twists and turns are compelling. I’d read the next one.

A good read for kids who are willing to pick up thick books and who love adventure, Arthurian legends, or creatively imagined worlds. And there’s a talking wolf!

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