I’ve been delving into the world of of middle grade novels in preparation for my children’s literature class I’ll be starting the end of this month, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with my choices this far. In looking for some middle grade fantasy, I came across The Familiars. I listened to it on audiobooks.com and enjoyed both the narration and Epstein and Jacobson’s writing.
Let me start by saying that the main character of this first book in The Familiars trilogy is…a cat. I thought I would be way too old to connect to Aldwyn and his companions Skyler (a bird) and Gilbert (a frog). I was wrong. Lincoln Hoppe did a fabulous job voicing the human and animal characters, and Epstein and Jacobson put together a great story.
Aldwyn is an orphaned alley cat, well-practiced in the art of procuring his next meal…usually by way of theft. But when the fish monger, a frequent victim of Aldwyn’s theft, hires a ruthless and magical bounty hunter, Aldwyn has to run for his life. He finds refuge in what seems like a pet shop, but it’s anything but typical. It’s a place where young wizards-in-training come to select their familiars, their magical animal companions. The problem is, Aldwyn is anything but magical, yet he is quickly chosen by Jack, a young wizard with whom Aldwyn forms an instant connection. It won’t hurt for him to play along for a little while, right?
Wrong! Just when Aldwyn is getting used to his new life, which includes meals being provided for him and a warm place to sleep, Jack, Dalton, and Marianne are captured by the evil queen of Vastia, and Aldwyn must join Skylar and Gilbert on a quest to save their loyals. Along the way they of course meet many challenges, some of which force Skylar and Gilbert to call on Aldwyn’s supposed magical gift of telekinesis. Though he lacks any such talent, Aldwyn seems to get by with his lies. He knows with each lucky break he is closer and closer to Skylar and Gilbert finding out the truth. If that happens, he fears the worst–not being able to help rescue Jack. The famliars’ journey also leads them to uncover one of Vastia’s greatest secrets, a secret that may be at the heart of what caused the queen, one of the greatest wizards herself, to turn the land she once protected.
The Familiars really is a great adventure, no matter what age the reader is. The upper elementary or middle grade student who is looking for something along the lines of Harry Potter, but with animals, will love The Familiars!
Currently reading Insignia, by S.J. Kincaid and Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go, by Dale E. Basye