Cover illustration © Petar Meseldzija.
The “Children of the Lamp” series of fantasy novels for young readers, is now up to seven books. I read the first book, published in 2004, and enjoyed it. The series is clearly meant to appeal to fans of the Harry Potter books, but it does have enough unique elements and good writing to make them fun to read. The characters in the books are largely members of a secret Djinn (genie) population of magical beings who live among us ordinary humans undetected for the most part. John and Philippa Gaunt are two apparently ordinary English children, but actually Djinn, and they live and operate in a world of magic, often very dangerous magic.
I haven’t read books two and three of the series, but recently bought books four and five at a library sale. One good test of a series is whether you can read it out of order and understand what’s going on. Book four did present some challenges at first, as there are a lot of new characters, but everyone was explained and introduced well enough that, by the time the action began to unfold, I felt comfortable in the story.
And there’s lots of plot here. Twins John and Philippa are in New York with their father, who is suffering from an aging curse that has turned him into a doddering ancient. Their mother is the Middle East trying to assimilate her new role as the powerful Blue Djinn of Babylon, and the twins want to rescue her by finding the true Blue Djinn heir who is missing. Meanwhile, in museums around the world, ancient Chinese clay warriors have been brought to life and are capturing all kinds of spirits, including those of the Djinn. No one knows what evil force is behind this, but the twins aim to find out. Then there’s their friend and fellow Djinn, young Dybbuk, who has gained sudden huge fame by becoming a stage magician on TV, backed by the long-time rival magical beings of the Djinn, the Ifrits. These are only some of the many plots and storylines explored in the book that takes us to Venice, Babylon, China, Las Vegas, and other points of interest around the world.
While the books are plot-driven, the characters are well-rounded and interesting too, and the adventures and danger they get into are imaginative. The series is fun, not too heavy or memorable, but good summer reading. I’ll get to book five soon.