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The Familiars

A book by Adam Jay Epstein

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  • Aug 7, 2010
The Familiars reads like it was put together with a cookie cutter -take one piece from this story, another from a second tale, etc., etc., until you have a booklength adventure. It is second hand and stale, not fresh like children's stories should be. The book tells the story of three animals who are familiars to wizards in training. Aldwyn is a kitten, Gilbert a tree frog, and Skylar a blue jay. When their young masters are kidnapped by an evil queen, they travel to free them. On the way, they confront menace after menace and in the process, bond as a threesome. It's familiar stuff -the Fellowship of the Rings, Luke Skywalker, C3PO and R2D2, the band of children crusading in Narnia. But it's flaccid. Aldwyn has the fullest fleshed personality (which is no surprise since the story is told from his vantage point). The know-it-all blue jay Skylar is a caricature and Gilbert little more than comic relief, though he redeems himself in the climactic battle. Aldwyn has a secret: familiars have their own special magical powers but Aldwyn doesn't have any so he must fake it. When the final battle comes, though, it turns out -no surprise--that plucky little Adlwyn has his own power: he's a teleport. With the aid of his newfound powers, he saves his master from death.

There's nothing terribly wrong with The Familiars. It just isn't very good. Its elements have all been used before, in stories whose plots are more compelling, whose characterization is deeper and truer, and in prose that is both more forceful and much more graceful.

(The Familiars has been optioned for film by Sam Raimy and Sony Animation.)

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About the reviewer
David Keymer ()
Ranked #427
I taught full time in grade school (1 year), high school (8 years) and college (7 years) --first Spanish, then social studies, then history. After I earned my PhD (in history) at Yale, I moved into administration. … more
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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.
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ISBN-10: 0061961086
ISBN-13: 978-0061961083
Author: Adam Jay Epstein
Genre: Children's Books
Publisher: HarperCollins
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