Fran Orenstein is one of those authors that is so multi-talented it makes you long for the next book in a series even when you're only half way through the current book you're reading!
In The Wizard of Balalac, we are introduced to two tween boys, Tyler Trent and Zack Vander who are shown a special bookstore with a special owner, Beadlesberry.
The Trents are archeologists, but the family has known of a special bookstore - The Rare Bookstore - where adventures abound.
In the debut book, Tyler's uncle introduced the boys to the bookstore, and in Phoenix where Tyler's parents are on a dig, Tyler indeed finds a bookstore that sounds like the one in New York City.
His Dad drives Zack and Tyler to the address and the bookstore is indeed there. Not a particularly abnormal statement, but this is a special bookstore that sometime disappears. There it was in Phoenix, the same store that was in New York City!
The boys enter the store with the knowledge that they'll be picked up in 2 hours. The owner of the store, the same proprietor, Beadlesberry welcomes the boys and takes them to the enticing Book of Mysteries. They can choose a title from the index of the book, and actually enter the story. They return with the help of a crystal and 'magic words'. But there is a purpose to this; the boys are needed at the stories to help situations in some way. It can be fun, but the dangers are real and the choices to participate are the boys'.
They come across The Gargoyles of Blackthorne, and decide to enter the story.
They are in the area of Gothica, where they meet twin princesses, Lily and Ivy and their cousin Sir Valor. They are dressed in Goth-like gear and their kingdom is a peaceful one...until sundown. There comes the danger of the Gargoyles of Blackthorne. By day, they are stone gargoyles guarding the castle of the King's evil brother and their mother; by night, these gargoyles come to life through a spell of the evil ones and come to Gothica to destroy and wreak havoc on the good folks of this land.
Soon it is apparent it is the boys' mission to help. Seems a sceptor the King possesses protects his kingdom is stolen, and they must go to the evil caste to return the sceptor and stop the evil from destroying the kingdom of Gothica.
Although written for young folks, it is a read for the young of all ages. It is up there in the ranks of Riordon's Perseus Jackson books for enjoyment, and is plain great and fun reading for us all.
Ms. Orenstein's writing places you in the story, and like the boys, you care about the events and like me, you will be disappointed when the ending comes.
You wish you had your own Book of Mysteries to have your own adventures. But until you do, we can all ride along with the boys and participate in the stories offered in the Book of Mysteries.
These are regular boys who get to help people and (hopefully) get home intact and know they have done well.
All with the knowledge that a special bookstore will pop up and entice them into the next adventure - I can't wait!
Ms. Orenstein writes for all ages. and kids of all ages can devour these books and relive the action. The books are fun and Ms. Orenstein can write and understand the mind of the young folks in a believable and fun fashion.
A great read!
The Gargoyles of Blackthorne by Fran Orenstein, ISBN: 978-0-9826444-301, Sleepytown Press, review by ellen george