The Wizard of Dark Street (ARC) by Shawn Thomas Odyssey
Pub. Date: July 26th, 2011
Age Level: 9+
Source: For review from publisher.
Synopsis via Goodreads
Oona Crate was born to be the Wizard's apprentice, but she has another destiny in mind.
Despite possessing the rare gift of Natural Magic, Oona wants to be a detective. Eager for a case, she is determined to prove that logic can be just as powerful as wizardry. But when someone attacks her uncle--the Wizard of Dark Street--Oona is forced to delve even deeper into the world of magic.
Full of odd characters, evil henchmen, and a street where nothing is normal, The Wizard of Dark Street will have you guessing until the very end
With the primary focus of my blog being YA, I sometimes forget just how much I enjoy reading MG. Sure I've read a few this year, and they were almost all good, but this, this my friends is one of those books that truly reminds me how terrific the MG genre can be when properly executed. Shawn Thomas Odyssey has rekindled my love of this reading division with his enchanting, delightful middle grade debut, The Wizard of Dark Street. Admit it folks, just the name alone makes you wanna read this one.
Odyssey has supplied this novel with an eclectic, quirky array of both main and supporting characters that were all at once captivating and distinct. First and foremost, I was introduced to Oona Crane, a willful and independent young lady with more interest in the logistical knowledge of the world than in her wizardry abilities. Her sense of humor was immediately appealing and I could feel her pain when I learned why she refused to practice her magic. Her curiosity and desire to show Dark Street a thing or two about how a real detective works embellished further on her already endearing personality. Oona was a heroine I connected with right from the start and I thought she was a remarkable protagonist that grew in wisdom and developed throughout the plot. Then we have Deacon, Oona's tried and true wizard's companion, as well as her rival for my favorite character. Did I mention he's a talking raven? Yep, that's him on her shoulder in the cover. Deacon is a little know-it-all; I say this in the most adoring way possible since he really does know it all, thanks to a little magic. He also has this dry, matter-of-fact style of humor that I absolutely loved, rounding him off as a most memorable and unique character. Samuligan is the intimidating, cowboy-hat-wearing, faerie servant of Pendulum House who's lack of resentment over his past surprised me but made me respect him even more for his loyalty. There is Isadora Iree, a snooty brat that, while I didn't particularly care for her, contributed to the plot, as did her more mature twin brother, the dashing Adler Iree, whom isn't the least bit amused by his sister's antics. Inspector White is the ridiculous head of police that I couldn't help but love to hate and was just as greatly annoyed by him as Oona. Also landing amongst the list of noteworthy supporting characters are: Oona's uncle, the Wizard of Dark Street; Mr. Ravensmith, the lawyer; Hector Grimmsbee, weird former actor and seemingly all-seeing blind man with impeccable sense of smell; Sanora Crone, wizard apprentice hopeful and young witch.
The Wizard of Dark Street is set during the late 19th century in a magical little world gated between New York City and the Faerie Realm. The name, in case you haven't guessed, is Dark Street and it is filled with it's own variety of eccentricities and quirks, from a tower manned by Goblins, to a clock that not only tells time but corny jokes as well. Throw in an intriguing murder/kidnapping mystery--you'll have to read it to see which it is-- and you've got an ageless, timeless tale that kids, and us older folks, can enjoy, not just now, but years and years to come as relevance is not applicable to this book. That is one of the things I loved about it most. Sure, the plot is original, fun, compelling, and in possession of an engaging mystery. But what really stuck out to me was how this seemed like a book I would have read when I was nine or ten-years-old, and a book that I could easily see my niece, maybe even nephew, reading when they reach this age range. I think the only issue, which isn't really an issue for me, particularly, would be that at the beginning, there is a decent bit of world and back story building. Personally, I thought it was beautifully crafted but I can see where maybe some middle graders wouldn't appreciate it quite as much and would be more anxious to delve directly into the mystery and intrigue. (Patience, grasshopper.)
Odyssey has a keen writing style that easily drew me in with it's richly atmospheric and imaginative prose. He didn't rely heavily on constant character interaction and frequent dialogue to power his story forward, though these aspects were just as skillfully done. Even when I was simply reading paragraphs of context, I could feel the magic of this world he created pulsing with a heartbeat all it's own. Not to mention his writing flowed smoothly and consistently all through out, never changing tempo too suddenly or as to make the pace become uneven.
The Wizard of Dark Street was pulled to a close in a way that tied up the loose ends perfectly and left me satisfied. Well, almost satisfied because I would like nothing more than to read about Oona, Deacon and the other characters in a second book. I can't refrain from wanting more of Dark Street and its mystical oddities but if there are plans for a sequel, then that is knowledge I have not yet obtained.
The Wizard of Dark Street is an absolute must read for any fan of middle grade literature. Odyssey has woven such a charismatic story, adorned with lovable, peculiar characters, that I'm already craving to begin reading all over again. I sincerely hope this highly talented author has another book in the works, because I have definitely been left wanting more.
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