Author: N. D. Wilson
Publication: Random House Books for Young Readers (August 23, 2011)
Description: For two years, Cyrus and Antigone Smith have run a sagging roadside motel with their older brother, Daniel. Nothing ever seems to happen. Then a strange old man with bone tattoos arrives, demanding a specific room.
Less than 24 hours later, the old man is dead. The motel has burned, and Daniel is missing. And Cyrus and Antigone are kneeling in a crowded hall, swearing an oath to an order of explorers who have long served as caretakers of the world's secrets, keepers of powerful relics from lost civilizations, and jailers to unkillable criminals who have terrorized the world for millennia.
My Thoughts: This book was filled with adventure, danger, and mystery. But it was also filled with awful adults - uncaring, uninformative, and indifferent to the needs of the children. As an adult, I was appalled. As a middle grader, I would probably overlook this aspect of the story and became lost in the adventure that the two protagonists are having. And it is quite an adventure.
Cyrus and Antigone have lost their father in an accident at sea, seen their mother lapse into a coma, and moved from the California coast house they loved to a shabby old motel in Wisconsin. They are under the care of their older brother Dan who is struggling to make ends meet. When a stranger comes to the motel trailing evil villains who want to kill him and gives Cyrus a keyring with some unusual accessories before he is killed, the adventure begins for Cyrus and his sister Antigone. The motel burns, Dan is missing, and a lawyer shows up to bring the kids to Ashtown which is the nearest outpost of the Order of Brendan - whose goal is to protect the humans from the supernatural dangers of the world.
Once the kids arrive after a harried escape that causes the lawyer to be hurt and unable to sponsor them, they are thrust into the strangeness that is Ashtown. They find that their father had been a member of the Order of Brendan but was expelled for loving and marrying their mother. They find no welcome at Ashtown. All the adults seem either actively hostile or indifferent to the kids. And the keyring and especially the bit of dragon's tooth is attracting villains both within and outside of Ashtown.
The kids need to pass tests to become members of the Order of Brendan. They must do this in order to get the help to find their brother and the financial resources they need to live. They do gather some allies while at Ashtown including a transmortal thief named Nolan and a young woman named Diana Boone who is already a member in good standing of the Order.
The villain of the story is a crazy villain named the Phoenix or Mr. Ashes. He is an expelled member of the Order of Brendan who was expelled for the experiments that he performed on humans that tortured them and altered their genetic codes. He wants revenge on the Order and he wants the Dragon's tooth because it is a Resurrection stone. He is aided by a number of creepy henchmen and traitors inside the Order of Brendan.
The story was exciting and would be of interest to middle graders. I liked that Cyrus and Antigone seemed to be very real and multi-dimensional characters.
This book has a wonderful trailer. Check it out here:
Cyrus slid back beside his sister. "Hold on, Tigs. This is dumb. Really dumb. Are you ready?"I received the ARC as a part of the Amazon Vine Program. You can get your copy here.
Antigone sniffed and tucked back her hair. "No," she said. "Not even close. Not even a little bit. Now do it."
Cyrus kicked the lever.