From School Library Journal
Grade 4-7–This fantasy is set in the City of Trees, an isolated oasis built long ago by the Karmidee, magical beings that range from widges (who use cats to amplify the power of their spells) to dragons and shape-shifters. When humans found their way to the metropolis through a mountain pass, they gradually seized control and turned its original inhabitants into second-class citizens. Known as Normals, these rulers now make life difficult for the Karmidee. Young Otto belongs to the most Normal of families–or so he thinks until his little twin sisters begin to fly, his grandmother transforms into a unicorn, and his father (a librarian) turns out to be the King of the Karmidee. Still struggling with his family's past and trying to accept the knowledge that he is a "magico," Otto is quickly placed in grave danger. A nasty and powerful Normal named Elfina wants to turn the Karmidee into freak-show entertainers for Outsiders, and it's up to Otto and his new friends to stop her. The amazing oddities and quirks of this world and its residents are described with delicious nonchalance, so that readers will feel right at home, yet be delighted by each new discovery (playground slides that loop around whole city streets, butterflies as big as dogs). The characters are equally surprising and unpredictable, swarming over the more straightforward plot. It doesn't matter; the writing is as fresh and invigorating as the setting. Fans of fantasy and speculative fiction, especially books like Jeanne DuPrau's The City of Ember
(Random, 2003), Suzanne Collins's Gregor the Overlander
(Scholastic, 2003), and Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines
(HarperCollins, 2003), will love this one as well. And hooray, it's the first in a series.–Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library
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Gr. 4-7. The First Book of the Karmidee takes place in the City of Trees, which has long been isolated from the world by encircling mountains as well as magic. Two peoples live there: the "normal" and the Karmidees, magical folk of all sorts, who experience prejudice and the increasing threat of persecution and exploitation. Otto Hush, who had always thought his family normal, is jolted by several revelations: his father, a mild-mannered librarian, is actually the King of the Karmidees; his prim grandmother is a spell-casting shape-shifter; and his baby sisters can fly. A fast-paced adventure ensues. Fearful at times, yet resolute at heart, Otto makes a sympathetic young hero as he stumbles and romps through a world more dangerous, complex, and intriguing than he had imagined. Haptie adds a bit of social satire with elements such as the Normal Police attempting to round up all "magicos" by searching residences for "Suspicious and Impossible Items of a Non-Respectable Nature." Expect sequels to this inventive first novel by Haptie, a Scottish writer. Carolyn PhelanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved