Monday, February 10, 2014

The Invisible Tower - Nils Johnson-Shelton

Summary: Part of the spell has already been broken.
The first stones have begun to crumble.
In Artie Kingfisher’'s world, wizards named Merlin, fire-breathing dragons, and swords called Excalibur exist only in legends and lore—until the day his video game Otherworld springs to life.
You are special, Arthur,
Says the mysterious message in his game.
In one week’s time you will come to me at the IT.
Cryptic clues lead Artie to a strange place called the Invisible Tower, where he discovers that nothing in his life is as it seems. Artie is none other than King Arthur, brought to life in the twenty-first century. Artie has won the battle in the virtual Otherworld—now the key to saving the realOtherworld lies in his hands as well.
Green dragons, hungry wolves, powerful sorcerers—, suddenly Artie must battle them all as he wields Excalibur and embarks on a quest worthy of the Knights of the Round Table. With his sister, Kay, by his side, Artie steps into the Otherworld— straight toward his destiny. (Summary and cover photo from goodreads.com  A copy of the book was provided at no cost in exchange for my honest opinion.)
My Review:  Artie's a pretty lucky guy.  His dad fully supports his kids' video game playing, he has an awesome older sister who is his best friend, and, according to the weird old dude (who says he's the one and only Merlin) at the video game shop, he just happens to be the new King Arthur.  Yes, that one.  Before he knows it, he's retrieved a sword from a stone with Tom Thumb at his side, and his sister is his newest knight.  But what are they fighting for?  And why is his favorite video game all so real?
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this retelling of the Arthurian legend.  To be clear, Artie isn't a resurrected or a reincarnated King Arthur, rather, he's his brother.  And Merlin is asking a lot of a young kid, he's only 11.  However, the growth that Artie experiences as he learns to trust himself, rely on his sister, and accepts his destiny makes him more than just a kid.
Nils Johnson-Shelton has done a fantastic job creating this new legend.  There are two worlds, our world and the Otherworld, where magic and dragons, shades and shadows, fairies and all sorts of unbelievable items exist.  The two worlds used to be connected, but their separation has possibly irreparably damaged both worlds, and only their reunification can fix that.  Artie knows the Otherworld from his video game, but is surprised to learn that it is a very real place, and that only by freeing Merlin (instead of trapped in a tree, this time he's trapped in an invisible tower) can they rejoin the worlds and save them both.
I really enjoyed seeing two siblings so eager to work together without the sibling rivalry and bickering, as well as seeing Artie's personal growth.  I don't know what it is, (perhaps I've watched too much Merlin) but I've always had this underlying suspicion that Arthur may have been an incredible warrior and extremely noble, but that he wasn't the brightest penny in the fountain.  This new Artie is a thinker.  He's smart, and he uses his instinct and his intelligence to guide him.  I appreciate that.
My Rating:  Four stars
For the Sensitive Reader:  One of the knights loses an arm in battle, and the hero and his sister take advantage of their dad's generosity while he's under a spell.  They express remorse afterward.  Also, Artie deals with a bully at school.

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