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William and the Thirteenth Key Paperback – June 26, 2015
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William tries to adjust to his boring life as he begins to imagine scary thoughts, convinced that his grandfather hides dark secrets within the manor. As William's curiosity makes him restless, he enters his grandfather's forbidden study, where he discovers much more than secrets. The young boy finds a mysterious amulet, which takes him to the world of Corpurnia. A world that's filled with horrifying creatures, and a cruel Emperor. Harbos rules with insanity, with an obsession to retrieve mythical keys that are believed to hold powers of ancient evil. Corpurnia is at the verge of destruction as sand pirates roam and seas become deserts, while all hope for protecting the keys has vanished, as Harbos becomes more evil.
William tries to convince himself that where he is has just been the result of a freak accident, but reality is that the boy's presence was expected for centuries, as William's nightmare has only just begun. He begins to realize that he's trapped, and needs help immediately, as he is hunted down by an evil empire. A not-so-happy gremlin, a dark elf, and an old Key Academic, come forward to help the boy survive. Time begins to run out as William must face many challenges in a chilling world, filled with goblins, and scary trolls.
Will the young boy find his mother, and his way home? Will he live up to the expectations of the Key Bearer as he deals with stormhowlers, and groundwailers? The author paints a portrait of a colorful adventure, filled with mystery, and suspense. The unique characters come to life in an intriguing story, packed with unexpected twists-and-turns. I found this story as entertaining as Men In Black, and as fun-filled and mysterious as the adventures of Harry Potter. "WILLIAM AND THE THIRTEENTH KEY" is filled with fantasy in a mystical, magical adventure, where there's never a dull moment. A very enjoyable young adult novel that grabs your attention in the very beginning, as you crave for more at the end. Highly recommended!
Special Note: I received an ARC of this book in addition to an animated book video, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The fact that this book--the author's first--is a page-turner should be clear from the opening prologue: high up in the wind-battered mountains above a monastery in Nepal, Victoria Sturnbottom has come upon the Twelfth Key--the meaning of which will soon become apparent. Yet she is not alone: her guide is pleading with her to go, as he has seen a VERY weird creature in the midst of a near-blinding snowstorm. But filled with ambition she she minimizes his fears...a mistake she will soon be paying for dearly.
And this is only the first couple of pages.
What Wil Madoc Rees has done successfully here (besides deliver a stunningly talented book cover of his own) is created a fully renditioned fantasy story out of elements that in lesser hands could have seemed to be the typical YA tropes: a young boy whose curiosity compels him to play with an amulet his grandfather kept secret from him, and he soon finds himself in a strange land called Corpurnia that is populated by equally strange creatures, and on the way to finding his route home he just might also discover he is none other than The Chosen One. Familiar territory, perhaps, but Rees successfully supplies his own elements and transforms his story into a compelling YA novel.
His main character, William, is young and certainly a stranger in a strange land, but he is by no means a born hero nor a wimp. It is his normality that should make him very palatable to young adults, and he is quickly aided by two quite interesting counterparts: Dribble, a bald little gremlin who will serve as his guide, and Octavia, a "dark" elf whose prettiness belies a very poisonous bite. Each has his or her own reasons to accompany young William, and both are compelling companions who are clever and resourceful and should appeal to most readers. In fact, they'll be great guides who will help William greatly if they can only learn to tolerate each other.
This is not to say there aren't some rough spots here: there are some nagging mechanical issues that may--I admit--very well bother only THIS old English teacher (like commas before words of direct address, as in "How are you, Will?"). Story-wise, I thought there were perhaps just one or two too many KEY antagonists toward the end, which got a little confusing, and I would have liked finding out a little more about the characters' back stories as well, but these are small points indeed in an overwhelmingly entertaining story.
What I particularly liked about WILLIAM AND THE THIRTEENTH KEY was Rees' adroit mixture of fun, adventure, nobility, and sheer creativity. I very much enjoyed some of his villainous inventions: vicious and tremendously powerful storm howlers composed of no more than vapor but capable not only of mixing up one heck of a mean storm but AIMING it as well; sand pirates whose ships are capable of floating ABOVE the desert floor; copper-covered messenger beetles who are curiously loyal and pretty darn intelligent; and a very cool flying Bentley automobile.
There are a couple of other positive notes I'd like to add here:
First, I think Rees had FUN writing the WATTK...it shows in the little touches he adds. With his mother missing (Victoria, of the Prologue) his grandfather assigned none other than the penultimate British "nanny" to watch over him: Old Lady McTavish, the Battle-Axe of Kildrummy. Stern to a fault and armed with a killer handbag, Rees is able to make her more than a one-dimensional stereotype and makes her a worthwhile addition to the small retinue of characters we truly care about. She is there as more than comic relief or the counterpoint to adventure: she plays a woman who has a real role here.
And while I'm on the subject, the whole stodgy British thing has a role here, too, and is used cleverly. For instance, as a small group of rescue-bent adventurers is finding themselves about to be savaged by a vengeful Stormhowler, with bolts of lightning savaging the buildings and terrain around them, Lord Sturnbottom is busy going through his mental checklist: "One of those windamacallits is heading right for us!" Ms. McTavish cries, to which Lord Sturnbottom calmly replies: "Yes, I'm well aware...but we must let the old girl warm up a bit."
The other note worth addressing is the fact that, while author Rees has provided his readers an ending that is both exciting and satisfying, there is definitely room here for a sequel. In fact, one could easily see sequels AND prequels...the book has that kind of openness and appeal. The Keys, for instance, are to be kept on wholly different worlds but linked by their unique powers. It is certainly a fact that does not bother me one bit.
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