Author: Elizabeth Parkinson Bellows
Publication: Wild Child Publishing (June 6, 2011)
Description: Alexander Drake is a curious young man. He lives in a drab, oversized mansion with his secretive father and spends his days playing alone. Where is his mother? And why is his father so tight-lipped about the past?
But secrets have a way of getting out. And a stay at his grandmother's cottage provides strange clues to his father's past. A past Alexander is determined to find out about.
With a mysterious key and several maps in his pack, he sets off on an innocent search for answers about his family.
The discovery of a secret passageway opens the door to dangers, and wonders, unimaginable. And each answer leads to more questions and the journey of his life.
Join Alexander for a thrilling adventure in Azra's Pith, a place of beauty and magic... but beware--something evil lurks in the shadows.
My Thoughts: This middle grade story is filled with interesting and entertaining characters. When Alexander first enters the world of Azra's Pith his first companion is Ferdinand, a hopper, who is there to assist him on his journey to find his grandfather the king. But when Ferdinand is captured by the evil murks, minions of the even more evil Imperius, Alexander is forced to wander alone until he encounters a lowly dirt pip. Dirt pips are small, cowardly, and thieves but Libera does help Alexander rescue Ferdinand. I found the bickering between Libera and Ferdinand amusing.
Ms. Bellows packs lots of adventure into 127 pages often, I felt, at the expense of character development. We knew little more about Alexander at the end of the book than we did at the beginning. We see him as a lonely young boy who wants to gain the respect of a largely absentee and emotionally distant father. We know that he dreams about his mother and wants to know about her. We know that he is a clumsy, social outcast.
We know that the villain who is trying to capture him is named Imperius and we know that he has a henchman named Roman. We have no idea what Imperius wants even though one of the other characters describes him as "an element of unspeakable evil" that is "the manifestation of everyone's nightmares". We do know that Roman wants to conquer King Paraclete but we don't know why.
One problem I had with the book was the language. It seemed inconsistent. The language went from very formal to very informal sometimes in the same sentence (see my favorite quote). I am still trying to figure out what a few sentences meant. This one was one of the most baffling: "A few hours burned away at the evening." And some of the conversations seemed sort of random with the response to a question not in alignment with what the question was.
I think that a middle grader with a pretty good vocabulary could enjoy the adventure in this story.
Mundi's shoulders drooped. The long hours of the evening chiseled away at the strength and character he exuded earlier. "Okay, kid, you win. It's obvious I can't change your mind," he said, shaking his head in defeat.I was sent a review copy of this book by Zeitghost Media. You can get your copy here.