When his parents force him to move from Maryland to Colorado and leave his best friend behind, Aidan struggles with anger, resentment, and boredom. All of that changes when Aidan discovers hidden scrolls in his new basement. As he reads their amazing story, he is drawn to the truth he finds in the scrolls. When his parents don't believe The Story of the scrolls is real, Aidan gains an unlikely ally in Grampkin (his grandpa), whom he resents for causing his family to move.
The scrolls end with an invitation for Aidan to enter "the door within" and seek adventure in Earth's parallel world, Alleble. In an act similar to making a decision for Christ, Aidan chooses to believe The Story (sort of like the Bible) is true. He then finds himself on a treacherous climb up a mountain. After battling the elements, sliding in dark tunnels under the mountain, encountering mysterious creatures with glowing eyes, and narrowly escaping being killed by soldiers, Aidan is rescued by an enormous dragon. Aidan is surprised to learn he has been called to Alleble by King Eliam who wants Aidan to be the twelfth knight in the kingdom. Aidan spends one week training before he joins the rest of the knights on a mission to persuade the neighboring kingdom of Mithegard not to succumb to the evil Paragor, and his second-in-command, Rucifel (Lucifer), but to join the honorable kingdom of Alleble in their stand for peace.
Like all true heroes, Aidan must find the strength and good within himself, and use it to rescue his friend, Gwenne, the only female knight in their company and persuade the king of Mithegard of the truth of their quest. Aidan shows his heroism, cunning and desire for peace in several surprising moves. Neither the creatures of the Realm, nor Aidan's choices, are predictable, yet they make perfect sense as we better understand the true nature of King Eliam. Like God, King Eliam lives in the hearts of those who believe in Him, and He promises to leave them "never alone." The message we are never alone is comforting for readers of all ages to remember.
What I Like: I like everything about this book. Like C. S. Lewis, Batson writes a believable, engaging fantasy story solidly based on Biblical truth, but accessible to the Christian and non-Christian alike. Aidan's commander, Captain Valithor, echoes Joseph in the Bible when he says, "Weep, Aidan, weep. . . But do not despair. Paragor's victory was not final. What he intended for evil has become the foundation for much that is good." We also see Paragor trying to usurp the throne of Eliam in much the same way Lucifer and one third of the angels rebelled against God and were expelled from Heaven. Sacrificial love and laying down one's life for a friend is a recurring theme in the book and the Bible. The book would be great for friends or families to read together and discuss, and would lead to valuable discussions even if some of the readers were not Christians.
It is evident Batson understands teenagers (he is also a middle school teacher) because his characters ring true and while Aidan is heroic, he also doubts himself and makes mistakes. Batson caters to teen interests when he deals with the pain of moving, the correct way to put on armor, and wondering if we have what it takes to suceed. Gwenne, Aidan's mentor and friend, is as brave as she is feminine, and will appeal to female readers.
I also like the care and attention to detail Batson used when writing. There are no loose ends, or inconsistencies in plot or character to distract from the book. In a fun twist, the book was printed in royal blue ink.
What I Dislike: Nothing
Overall Rating: Excellent
Age Appeal: 10-14--Battle scenes and violence are pretty tame, so it should be fine for ten-year-olds to read the book. The themes are complex enough teens older than 14 may like it too.
Publisher Info: Thomas Nelson, 2005; ISBN: 978-1-4003-1011-1 ; Paperback, $9.99
Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $6.99
OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $9.99.