Jim Genzano’s middle grade fantasy novel SEA AND SWORD is the exciting introduction to a series in which a boy discovers a magical world that reminds him of his favorite books. The story begins with a boy named Hunter who finds a magical doorway behind his school that leads to a strange world full of weird creatures. After returning home, Hunter is unable to find the door again, and has been left with a curse: bees randomly escape from his mouth and often sting him before flying away. Hunter and his English teacher share a love of a fantasy book series, and when they find the long-lost final volume to the series, Hunter literally stumbles upon another door to the magical world, falling through a puddle and into an ocean. Rescued by pirates who fear his bee curse, Hunter returns the favor by helping the pirates search for treasure buried in an old shipwreck. With mysterious creatures both friendly and dangerous, the magical world becomes Hunter’s new home as he escapes the boredom of the real world and gets in touch with his sense of adventure.
Hunter is an impatient young hero who sees reading and this magical world as an escape, but what he is escaping from, aside from boredom and the disbelief in the magical world by his friend, is unclear. While his personality is relatable, his motivations stand on shaky ground, making him feel incomplete. Meanwhile, Hunter’s newfound pirate friends are an entertaining bunch, exchanging jokes and telling their heartrending backstories to bolster empathy, but their penchant for drinking alcohol and swearing—though the words themselves are not written explicitly in the book—may deter the intended young audience. The inhabitants of the world are innovative and uniquely endearing and terrifying in turns.
SEA AND SWORD is fast-paced and suspenseful, with cliffhanger chapter endings and inter-character tension on every page. An ominous villain looms—the boy King of the magical world who unleashes dragon-like monsters on Hunter and the pirate crew—but he and Hunter do not cross paths, leaving an open ending with their eventual convergence looming at an unknown time in the future of the book series. Hints that there is more to this world and his own reality than meets the eye also amp up anticipation for the next book.
Jim Genzano’s SEA AND SWORD is a fast-paced, swashbuckling kickoff to a middle grade fantasy series with a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers excited for more.
~Aimee Jodoin for IndieReader