AUDIENCE: Middle Grade, ages ten and up
PAGES: 240 pages
PUBLISHER: Spencer Hill Press
A British haunting tale with its own unique flavor, Rhys A. Jones' first installment in his middle grade series is quite entertaining for children and adults.
Eleven-year-old Oz Chambers has had a difficult life. His father disappeared two years prior and is thought dead and his mother plunges into a deep depression because of it. Oz has learned to roll with the punches and spends his time with school and friends, Ruff and Ellie. Then, one night he and his friends hear ghostly footsteps in a boarded up section of Oz's old house. Penwurt, Oz's family home, is full of secrets and legends. Oz and his friends decide to investigate the house's history and find more mystery and intrigue behind every door.
When a package arrives for Oz postmarked the day of his father's death, everything changes. Inside is the obsidian pebble and what seems to be the key to all the mysteries of Penwurt. Then Oz learns that others may be seeking Pernwurt's secrets as well. He and his friends must scramble to untangle this mystery before anyone else can.
With interesting characters, an intriguing setting and a clever plot The Obsidian Pebble works on nearly every level. I found myself rooting for Oz and his companions. Their dialog and banter is humorous and realistic, reminiscent of early Harry Potter with his daring sidekicks, Hermione and Ron. They even have school bullies and scary teachers just like Hogwarts. Penwurt is the perfect setting for a haunted tale. Jones' story-telling abilities shine throughout each step of this story.
The only issue I had with this story was pacing. At the beginning, the pace is quite engaging. The mystery begins quickly to keep us captivated. However, after the author hints at the mystery, the characters spend a lot of mulling over details, getting in fights, and receiving tongue-lashings from maths teachers. All of this was well and good, but I kept waiting for the inciting incident to occur and compel the story forward. It did come with the gift of the pebble, but only after a third of the novel went by. With young readers I fear this arrives too late. Some readers might be put off by having to wait so long for our story to gain legs and gallop forward.
For readers ten and up, this story is clever, captivating, and truly scary. Be prepared to hang in for the long haul and you won't be disappointed.
THE RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
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Katie French is the author of The Breeders Series, a young adult dystopian adventure and other stories. Sign up for notifications, follow her @KatielFrench or like her on Facebook.