Monday, October 15, 2007

Post-Potter Fantasy: Nightmare Academy by Dean Lorey

For middle readers devastated by the end of the Harry Potter series, Dean Lorey's newly published Nightmare Academy should provide a literary palliative.

This novel has many of the elements of the HP phenom: an alienated boy, Charlie Barrington, with special powers that he knows not of; a sudden "removal" from home by a band of oddball operatives with magical powers; "portals" which open to another dimension; a spectacular academy for children with special gifts; an ordeal with the "Trout of Truth" who separates the students into Banishers and Nethermancers; two classmates, a boy and girl, who become his best friends and colleagues in adventure; and an offbeat mentor and wise headmaster who guide him through the development of his gifts.

Beyond these similarities, however, is an original premise: Charlie is a boy with unique powers, a boy whose inborn imagination is so powerful that his nightmares have the power to open a portal between Earth and the world of the Nether, allowing monsters to break through and wreak death and destruction on the real world. Because of the danger of these nightmares, thirteen-year-old Charlie's parents have kept him apart from the world for his own protection and the protection of other children.

When an especially fearsome nightmare allows a class 5 Silvertongue monster into his bedroom, Charlie and his parents are saved by Rex, a Banisher, Tabitha, a Nethermancer, and Pinch, their disgruntled Facilitator. Charlie's parents reluctantly agree to allow him to be taken to Nightmare Academy and schooled in managing his amazing gifts. Once Charlie is under the protective spell of the Academy, however, Verminion and Barrakas, two of the four rulers of the evil center circle of the Nether, capture Charlie's parents to lure him into their world and gain control of his power. Charlie, with the help of his new friends Violet and Theodore, manage to open a portal to the lair of the evil creatures and in a fearsome confrontation barely escape with the Barringtons and their own lives.

There are enough gross-out monsters and gory battles here to satisfy any fantasy fan. With the evil Barrakas and Verminion gravely wounded but still alive in their hideout on Earth, we can anticipate their counterattack in installments to follow. But, as Headmaster Brazenhope tells Charlie near the end of the book, "That is a long story for another day." It may not be Harry Potter, but for readers who like their adventure of the sword and sorcery/dungeons and dragons variety, it's a cracking good read, especially in this, the witching season.

As the publishers promise, there are more "mayhem and monsters" (as well as games, videos, and reader reviews) available at their website at this link.

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  • Terry Pratchett.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:41 PM  

  • What he said: Terry Pratchett, particularly the Tiffany Aching story arc for the we-miss-Harry-Potter crowd. "The Wee Free Men", "A Hat Full of Sky", and "Wintersmith" in that order.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:06 PM  

  • Thanks for the additional suggestions. My third grader read the book twice this weekend. He loved and he is looking forward to the next one in the series.

    He is a very strong reader and he commented that the story had more big words than normal. I am guessing the 4th grade lower limit is about right.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:26 AM  

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