Book: The Paladin Prophecy: Book 1
Author: Mark Frost
Age Range: 12 and up
The Paladin Prophecy is the first book in a new young adult series about a teenage boy (Will West) who discovers that he has special abilities, finds himself pursued by bad guys, and must learn to manage without his parents. Well, to be fair, Will was always aware that he had some special abilities, but his parents encouraged him to keep them under wraps. He has spent the whole first part of his life attempting to blend in. But when Will accidentally aces a national assessment exam, he draws the attention of an assortment of individuals, not all of them human, and only some of them with his best interests at heart.
I found the first part of The Paladin Prophecy, in which Will is on the run, a bit over the top. However, the book improved for me once Will arrived at his new, elite private school, The Center for Integrated Learning. There, for the first time in his life, Will makes friends, and even begins to trust a few people with his secrets. Of course trouble follows Will to the Center, and danger ensues. But there's also some enjoyable banter among the kids. Like this:
""So tell me: What's your first impression?"
"At six I could do a pretty awesome Scooby-Doo."
She frowned at him. "How many head injuries have you had?"
"None that I remember. Is that a bad sign?"
"I meant your first impression of the school, you goof," said Brooke." (Page 126)
""Oh, they can do a lot more than talk," said Nick, helping Will up while still walking on his hands. "If you know what I'm saying, wink, wink."
"There's a difference," said Elise, "between using a tool and being a tool."
"Touche, my lady," said Nick, flipping back to his feet and giving a small bow." (Page 312)
The Paladin Prophecy stretches credibility on multiple levels (like the presence of a cab driver who repeatedly risks life, limb, and his employment to help Will, who he's just met). The school is ridiculously posh, and the special skills of Will and his new friends are improbable, to say the least. And that's not even really getting into the supernatural stuff. But I think that kids will enjoy it. The Paladin Prophecy is fast-paced, full of twists and turns and opportunities for cleverness and bravery. There is plenty of tech gadgetry to appeal to modern kids. The teachers, and the subjects that they teach, also play a part in Will's adventure. Mark Frost isn't afraid to toss in world history, Emerson, and genetics, and make the reader think. There's a Spy Kids sort of vibe.
One device that I enjoyed was the sprinkling through the book of "rules to live by" given to Will by his father. Like these:
"#84: WHEN NOTHING ELSE WORKS, TRY CHOCOLATE."
"#92: IF YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TELL YOU MORE, SAY LESS. OPEN YOUR EYES AND EARS, AND CLOSE YOUR MOUTH."
The rules are all listed at the end of the book.
References to Emerson aside, The Paladin Prophecy is not literary fiction. But it is entertaining fantasy, with a kid-friendly boarding school setting and quirky, likable characters. Though marketed as young adult fiction (the characters are teenagers in high school, there are some nods to hormones and dating), I think it would work fine for middle schoolers. Recommended for teen and tween readers (especially boys) looking for a new epic fantasy series.
Publisher: Random House (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source of Book: Bought it on Kindle
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