Friday, June 29, 2007

Saving the World, Part II: John Bellair's Lewis Barnevelt in The Tower at the End of the World by Brad Strickland

In this sequel to John Bellairs' Lewis Barnavelt series, which began with the classic spellbinder The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Brad Strickland continues to write as if John Bellairs were guiding his hand from beyond the grave.

The Tower at the End of World begins with portentious presentiments that the evil Isaiah Izard's evil spawn, Ishmael Izard, is alive and attempting to become master of the world by ending all life on earth by reconstructing his father's Doomsday Clock. Lewis becomes more and more frightened when he and his "parlor magician" uncle Jonathan Barnavelt vacation near friend Rose Rita's grandfather's home on Lake Superior. With the discovery of a magically appearing and disappearing island in the lake, Jonathan involves Mrs. Zimmmerman, their wizardly neighbor, in a search which leads to a midnight mission to Izard's spellbound Gnomon Island.

Mrs. Zimmerman and Jonathan Barnavelt are captured by the evil Izard, and it's up to Rose Rita and Lewis to subdue the wizard and free the captives with just two minutes left on the Doomsday Clock. Although not outwardly as brave as the others, it is Lewis who figures out what and where the Clock is so that it can be destroyed before it reaches the midnight hour of doom.

For fans of John Bellairs' earlier Barnavelt books, including his own sequels The Figure in the Shadows, and The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring, this and Strickland's earlier continuing books about Lewis Barnavelt are must reading. Unlike most authors who take on a franchised series, Strickland's writing is at least the equal of Bellairs' and promises to keep Lewis, Johnny Dixon, and (we hope) Anthony Monday fighting evil wizards for decades more.

(Brad Strickland has written a total of seven books in the Lewis Barnavelt series, all featuring a wonderful combination of 1950's coziness and hair-raising gothic mysteries, all of which begin in a comfortable Victorian town in Michigan.)

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