The Box and the Dragonfly (Keepers, book one)
By Ted Sanders
Expected publication March 3, 2015 by HarperCollins
Horace knows that seeing a sign with his name on it is pretty unusual, but even he couldn't have imagined what seeing that sign would mean. Soon, Horace is introduced to a world he would never dream of, full of Keepers and unbelievable objects and incredible danger. Somehow, Horace knows this new world is where he belongs.
I think it's pretty obvious by this point that I'll read almost any kind of speculative fiction book - I'm basically a sucker for a fantastical adventure story. Even better if it's geared toward a middle grade or young adult audience. So, it was a no-brainer for me to download this e-galley.
This is definitely a unique book. I thought Sanders did a great job crafting a mythology that was unlike anything I'd read before, even if it was a bit complicated to understand initially. I really enjoyed the characters as well - Horace's inquiring mind is refreshing and Chloe's indomitable spirit is quite admirable (and also, as an adult, a bit worrying). These two shine more brightly than the other characters, but I thought they were all quite well-drawn. Dr. Jericho is beyond creepy, so keep that in mind when recommending this title. The only complaint I have about the characters is that Sanders never really gives physical descriptions of them, so they can be difficult to picture in my head. Young readers may not have the same problem, though. Additionally, regarding the adult characters, I was a little irritated about the revelation made by Horace's mom at the end. They had such a strong relationship that I didn't find it believable that she would wait until after all the action had occurred before having that conversation with him.
Sanders has also done a good job keeping the action going and the pace moving along. The explanations of what's going on and the society of Keepers never bog down the story or make it feel interrupted. It's a good thing that Sanders keeps the action coming because this book is long - the finished copy is listed at almost 550 pages. It's no secret that kids will devour books of this length or longer, but they better deliver adventure and action sequences that are completely engaging. It doesn't really feel like it's more than 500 pages long, but it is, so you may have to convince some of your readers that it's a worthwhile investment.
I appreciated the blend of fantasy and science - I thought Sanders handled that well and it definitely added another depth to the story. This book also addresses a lot of interesting issues that will make kids think and question.
While there was a lot I enjoyed about this book, it never really knocked my socks off. I'm intrigued enough to pick up book two when it comes out, and I can definitely see recommending this to young readers.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.