Fourteen-year-old Ben Greenwood hasn’t seen his parents in two years. Not since the day he came home to find his house basically destroyed. The police have just about given up, but Ben hasn’t. His perseverance is rewarded when he discovers a letter addressed to his father from the Royal Institute of Magic. “You are the most wanted man in the Unseen Kingdoms. Unless you come to us, we cannot help. For your child’s sake, tell us what you know.” The letter is dated two days before his parents disappearance. The only other clues are the Institute’s logo and a small masterpiece piece of cloth. For Ben though, these are enough, and with his best friend Charlie at his side, he sets out to find the mysterious Institute and hopefully his parents. Ben will soon find himself in a world where magic is a commodity. But it’ll take more than that to uncover the secret that Ben’s parents are protecting. The very secret that’s the key to defeating the evil the Institute’s been battling for centuries.
Except for the prologue which I found superfluous, I LOVED this book! It’s a little derivative of Harry Potter, but it has more than enough originality to stand on it’s own. Except for his dismissive attitude toward girls, which is typical of a fourteen-year-old, Ben is a perfect protagonist. Courageous, loyal, stubborn, I found myself cheering for him through the entire story. Charlie is a wonderfully written best friend. He’s a genius, who counter-balances Ben’s impulsiveness. And Natalie, the half-elf who winds up rounding out the trio, is a smart addition. While Ben doesn’t appreciate her at first, it doesn’t take long for him to discover that he would never make it through the Unseen Kingdoms without her. I also truly appreciated her patience and humor when dealing with Ben. Now to the world building, which I found absolutely phenomenal! Filled with not only elves, goblins, and the usual things you find in fantasy novels, there’s also Dragontrains, spellshooters, and a floating prison. And then there’s the intriguing ties between Queen Elizabeth who created the Royal Institute of Magic, the Unseen Kingdoms, and her mysterious legacy and how it relates to Ben and his family. This is one of those hidden gems that I would recommend to anyone who loves Harry Potter, Charlie Bone, and Percy Jackson. I can promise you that once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down. And thankfully, the sequel is coming out sometime this Spring.