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The Familiars Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 7, 2010

4.6 out of 5 stars 195 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Familiars Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Gr 4-7–This series opener won't disappoint. Escaping from a bounty hunter, a streetwise cat becomes the familiar of a boy magician-in-training. Almost before Aldwyn gets to know his new surroundings, Jack, his sister, and a fellow student are kidnapped and it is up to him; Skylar, a magic-adept bluejay; and Gilbert, a clumsy, red-eyed tree frog, to rescue their “loyals.” The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. The characters are genuinely familiar: Aldwyn feels inadequate and works hard to conceal his humble origins; Skylar has secretly studied human magic and can be arrogant about her abilities; bumbling Gilbert thinks mostly about food and fears the father he has disappointed. The history of the queendom of Vastia is smoothly worked into the narrative. This winning combination of action and humor will keep readers turning pages right up to the ending, which successfully concludes this adventure but leaves room for more.Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
© Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Aldwyn, a scruffy, quick-witted alley cat on the lam, poses as a magical animal when he ducks into a shop to avoid capture and ends up purchased as a boy wizard's familiar. Despite needing to keep his mundane nature hidden, Aldwyn settles easily into his new role, bonding with his human loyal, Jack, and befriending two other children's familiars: Gilbert, a tree frog, and Skylar, a blue jay. When an evil witch kidnaps the children and kills their mentor, only their familiars can save them. Stock characters—the underdog orphaned hero with hidden talents; the bossy, know-it-all girl; the dim, comic-relief friend; the wise old mentor—move through a predictable fantasy quest that is nonetheless agreeable. The dual authors, their intentions toward animated movie–dom clear, write competently but perfunctorily. A secret history about the true role of familiars and a world populated with imaginative wildlife adds interest to the clichéd but charming adventure. Grades 4-6. --Krista Hutley
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Download the first chapter from The Familiars [PDF].

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 920L (What's this?)
  • Series: Familiars (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061961086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061961083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
On the run from a black magic wielding bounty hunter, Aldwyn, a wily alley cat ducks into a convenient doorway to hide. Inside, he finds himself in a shop full of unusual animals with unusual talents. They are familiars, animal helpers to witches and wizards who are waiting to be chosen by a person who will become their loyal. When Jack, an 11-year-old apprentice wizard chooses Aldwyn, the cat decides to take advantage of the opportunity to escape the bounty hunter - a decision that changes his life dramatically. Outside the gates of the city where he has lived for as long as he can remember, Aldwyn begins to settle into his new life, growing closer to Jack, who studies with two other apprentices, Marianne and Dalton. He also learns more about familiars from Marianne's familiar Gilbert, a red-eyed tree frog and Dalton's familiar, Skylar, a blue jay. Before he can get too comfortable, though, Jack, Marianne and Dalton are stolen away by an evil queen who plans to kill them. Aldwyn, Gilbert and Skylar resolve to rescue their loyals and set off on a perilous journey to do so.

The Familiars, the first book by the writing team of Adam J. Epstein & Andrew Jacobson does, as other reviewers have noted, feel somewhat familiar, especially in the first few chapters. And the overall plot - people to save, an enemy to defeat, dangers to face, etc. is common to thousands of novels. So the questions are: a) did the book get past the familiarity of the early chapters and come to feel more original? and b) were the authors able to draw us into the traditional hero's journey/quest story even though we've come across the plot before?

For me, the answer to both of these questions is "yes".

The Familiars is a fast paced story with likeable characters that children will root for.
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Format: Hardcover
Our son just finished this book and said it's the best book he's ever read. He's a 3rd grader who reads above grade level and has been reading "chapter books" for several years now. When he finished the book he eagerly filled me in on the plot. I got a kick out of hearing him use the word "telekinesis". He thought it was exciting and funny, which is probably why he kept reading past his bedtime to finish it (it's a Friday night...what was I going to say? "No, stop reading this instant!")

Of course, just because my son enjoyed the book doesn't mean your kid will. His previous favorite book was Because of Winn-Dixie; he also really enjoys the Goosebumps series.

He can't wait for the next book in the series...in fact, that's why I came on Amazon tonight, to see if there were more. None of our other (older) kids had heard of this book - our son picked this out at the bookstore for himself based on the cover and what he read on the inside flap. I suspect the other kids will read this book too, as they're both fans of Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and our daughter absolutely loves Erin Hunter's Warriors and Seekers series.

I read some of the other reviews and it looks like a lot of the negative reviews are from adults reading the book. While I doubt the writing in The Familiars is quite on the level of Newberry Medalist "Winn Dixie", the fact that my son so enjoyed it is the reason I gave it 5 stars. Reading is supposed to be enjoyable and in the end that's what it comes down to. This book wasn't written for me; it was written for kids. It's clearly a hit with my son who's in the target audience, and a book he enjoyed so much only encourages him to keep reading.

As a side note, seeing that Sam Raimi is producing the movie has me intrigued. I wonder if we'll hear Bruce Campbell as one of the characters.
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Format: Paperback
My only complaint... well actually I have three minor complaints, but they are minor and don't really diminish the story much. These are (In order, biggest complaint to least):

1 - It does fit the genre and I totally expected it, but I wished Aldwyn had not been an actual Familiar with actual mystical powers. I think it would have been better if he were just smart, using his wits. IMOP his cleverness was a FAR better magic than telekinesis.

2 - Paksahara (the Gray Hare Witch, very clever I have to say) referenced the mountain cave the trio stayed in and fought the troll in. The fact that she knew animals use to be wizards and ruled the land, in fact performed all of the great feats of legend without humans; that's great - but seeing the same paintings as the Familiars and then referencing it? Sorry, strains credulity a bit. IMOP it would have been better if she had another source for her revelation.

3 - The Familiars are destine to be the ones to save Vastia, well that's a given BUT it shouldn't have been so obvious and it shouldn't have been reveled so causally as the end of this first book.

It did get a lot right! Plenty of minor, unresolved mysteries abound. What is the meaning of the silver anklets? Why does Gilbert's father treat him like he does when he can see the future and knows much of his destiny? Will Skylar become the great wizard she so hopes to be? Why was Aldwyn apparently abandoned as a kitten and what family does he belong to? What of the Familiars Loyal's? Hopefully they will have more than a cursory role in the upcoming events, be more than bait. They should get the chance to participate, even maybe save the day some.

And the hunter Grimslade, I do hope we see more of him!
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