Dianne Lynn Gardner just might be the next John White, and Ian’s Realm the new Anthropos. With pleasingly consistent writing, enjoyably flawed teen characters, and a world that blends real-world emotions with intriguing imagination, the Ian's Realm novels are perfectly tuned to a middle grade male audience and highly recommended.
Ian is a very ordinary, lonely young man. Motherless, with a fascinating but socially inept father, a love for computers and swords, and teachers who simply don’t understand him, he finds himself stuck doing a project with… a girl. Escaping to another world instead might be the best solution all around, except Ian’s really more down-to-earth than that and would rather just get on with the job. Unfortunately, Dad’s not so practical. And where Dad goes Ian's bound to follow.
Details are very pleasingly imagined in this middle grade fantasy, from the way Ian enters his strange new world, to the way the denizens view him, to the mysteries of song and prophecy. Poems with great rhythm and vivid lyrics fit the story perfectly, and create no sense of imposition when they're encountered--a rare treat.
I really enjoyed this novel--lost the point of view once in a while, but it wasn't a problem in a book that's smoothly written, intriguing, and built onto just the right level of detail. The characters are great. The dad’s a mystery. And the future must surely promise more books to come. Deception Peak is a novel complete in itself that stands alone perfectly. But there’s so much depth waiting to be filled (and prophecy to be fulfilled), that I have to search for more books...
which leads me to Silvio, the first in the Tales of Four Wizards...
A mother sends her son away, giving him only memories and magic to guide him. “Use the magic sparingly” she says, sparing him the destruction he would surely face from the dreaded Queen Hacatine. And so four teenage conjurers become outlaws.
Silvio's the first short story of the four wizards and it stands alone perfectly. Set in an earlier time, these tales add depth and detail to the unspoken history of Deception Peak, adding to the mystique.
If you’ve read Deception Peak, there’ll be a certain satisfaction to that feeling of recognizing roots in the past. But you don’t need to read the longer novel first. This short story gives a great flavor for the magical world of Silvio and his friends, and creates some immediately relatable characters, thrust into instant danger. Young teens will love Silvio as an enjoyable, mystical short story full of action, magic and adventure. And they'll love it even more if it’s part of a set.
As the boys flee griffons, condors and more and a wicked witch gives chase, the question arises, can running away ever really lead to safety. “There’s got to be more to this world than just us,” says eighteen-year-old Kaempie, with great wisdom and maturity. There has to be more than just these boys battling one face of evil. And there is.
Silvio is a beautifully haunting tale of love, loyalty and loss, of ordinary human boys in the guise of wizards, and of hope unrealized in a convincing imaginary world. With its realistic portrayal of teen boys and relationships, it’s highly recommended for middle school readers and older.
Then there's Meneka, another tale of four wizards...
Meneka again stands alone as the tale of two wizards adrift in world of water and temptation. One will fall and one rise, but which will be the stronger? Young Meneka, wounded in the past, determined to survive, practical, quick and imaginative, tries to plan the next move. Meanwhile studious Kaempie advises caution. And a wild wind blows.
The world of these wizards is a place of strange powers and breezes. Threatened by the evil queen who drains sorcerers of their powers as soon as they ripen, stretching from port to ocean to curious shore, peopled with wizards and men and maybe more, it comes to life in author Dianne Lynn Gardner’s four wizards short stories. This second wizard is destined for great things as he chooses his hiding place and his defenders, but there’s a sadness in seeing temptation calling him.
Readers of the author’s longer novel, Deception Peak, will delight at these insights into the history behind two groups of people ever at odds. New readers will enjoy the realistic interactions between teenagers and the twisted determination of young Meneka. And those like me, already hooked on Ian’s realm, will simply long for more. This series and these books are highly recommended for middle grade and up, and particularly for those hard-to-hook boys in the age group.
Disclosure: I won one of these books, was given another, and bought a third when it was offered free.