'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Sunday 10 May 2015

Review: The Box and the Dragonfly (The Keepers #1)

When Horace F. Andrews sees his full name on a sign, he has to check it out. The sign leads him to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects. There he finds a small oval box — or, rather, it's as if the box finds him — and his life changes forever.

Ted Sanders has crafted a masterful world of magic and science fiction in this first book of The Keepers series. In this world, there are Tinkers, or ordinary humans, and Keepers, humans who have an affinity for magical instruments known as Tanu. Some of these magical instruments will work for anyone and are known as Tan'kindi, but others bond to a specific person and then become Tan'ji.

Made by a race known as the Altari, these Tanu are now the cause of a fierce battle between the Riven, a splinter group of Altari who wish to keep all the Tanu for themselves, and the human Keepers. The Riven will stop at nothing to destroy the Keepers — and now Horace, the new Keeper of the Fel'Daera, is firmly in their sights.

Together with his friend Chloe, a fellow Keeper who has the ability to pass through walls and merge into trees thanks to the dragonfly Tan'ji that hangs around her neck, Horace must fight the Riven, led by the merciless and terrifying Dr Jericho, in an ancient battle of good against evil. His newfound ability to see the future will be key — but is what he sees always exactly what will happen?

I loved that this book wasn't just all about action. Yes, there is adventure and adrenaline aplenty; and yes, there is stacks of magic, mystery and gadgetry; but characterisation hasn't been forgotten. Horace and Chloe are both great characters, with lots of depth and enough background that we can truly care for them. The supporting characters also intrigue and go beyond mere cardboard cut-outs used to advance the plot. (Horace's Mum is seriously cool and I was pleased to see it looks like she'll have more of a starring role in Book 2.)

This book intrigued me from the very first page and it kept my interest until the last, nearly 500 pages later. The length does mean it won't necessarily be an easy read for all of its intended middle-grade audience though. It requires commitment, or perhaps a parent to read it with (and possibly preview some of the scarier scenes for younger kids), but it's certainly worth it. The age-old themes of friendship, trust and loyalty are given new life in what is a truly original story, and I can't wait to see how it continues to unfold from here.

Title: The Box and the Dragonfly (The Keepers #1)
Author: Ted Sanders
Publisher: Hot Key Books, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: March 2015
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781471403590
For ages: 9+
Type: Middle Fiction