Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: Boston, 2012.
The story alternates between two worlds. In a far away universe, there is a coup. The last of the conquered must protect an artifact of power crafted with the beauty from which they derived their rule. It is sent out of the universe to keep it out of the hands of the conquerors. The item lands in Plymouth, MA, at a beachhouse home. A home struggling with the loss of a beloved mom and wife. A town on the verge of making a modern decision that could forever change its New England style. The conquering Lord Mondus sends minions to detect and retrieve the object. Tommy wears the found necklace and gains knowledge and understanding, strength and power, and increased artistic ability. He will need all of his talents to stand against the power of Lord Mondus, and more.
The two tellings are interesting on their own. Going back and forth between them was more difficult to keep focus, since the tales are so different in makeup. Fantasy can be challenging anyway for readers, because the world is foreign and names are uncomfortable in sound and rhythm. I remember as a young reader that even foreign country names made reading harder, as I had trouble reading names I couldn't pronounce. One thing good about the format is that alternating gives a less practiced reader a break from the unusual world.
The parts within New England make a very strong story. I love Tommy's family, and enjoyed his school days. His struggles are not so unusual for everyday life, except that the confrontation with the other world characters adds a twist and children do not usually handle any major problems in our society.
Again, Gary Schmidt has created an awesome story. I have found each of his works to be fascinating and quite different from anything else, including his own works. Quite satisfying.
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