Friday, June 7, 2013
Aldwyn is an ordinary alley cat, lightly hoping from one roof to another, stealing food when needed, and sleeping with one eye open. That is, until Grimslade the feared bounty-hunter comes after him, so Aldwyn hides out in an unusual pet store where he is mistaken for a magical animal and purchased by a young wizard. Now Aldwyn is the Familiar for Jack, a wizard in training. He meets two other wizards, Marianne and Dalton and their Familiars, Gilbert and Skylar and trains for only a few days before a prophecy shows that three will over turn the kingdom. Suddenly, the young wizards are captured, the wise mentor is dead, and the Familiars must work together to save their companions.
This is the first in series, although I have to admit that close to the end, I was hoping this was a solitary book. The relationship between the Familiars and their Loyals is very touching, as Aldwyn, always the loner, cares very much for Jack and will do anything to save him. The teamwork between know-it-all Skylar, perennial-screw-up Gilbert, and not-really-magic Aldwyn is interesting and their friendship is also entertaining.
Animal stories are popular, and magic is too. Mixing the two might not always be a good combination, but this is an entertaining book for younger readers. The danger faced by the Familiars is descriptive and exciting, but since it is happening to animals and not people, readers are more removed and it might be less frightening. The action is well paced and appropriate for the age group, and I didn't see that ending coming until those last few chapters, so I would say that readers will be surprised as well.
Did anyone else catch the odd Animal Farm-esque reference toward the end? Only me? Well, young readers won't get it either, but I can see that there are going to be some weird parallel themes between the two. That could be a hilarious book report from an over-achieing third grader! Four Legs or Two: Power Structures in The Familiars and Animal Farm.
All in all, I liked this book for those just past early chapter book readers. It isn't as mature as Percy Jackson, but still gives readers the magic and adventure they crave.