And Then I Read: TOMMY BLACK AND THE STAFF OF LIGHT by Jake Kerr

TommyBlackStaffLight

Cover art by M.S. Corley

I’m on vacation and have a few new Kindle books to read on my phone, handy for the plane or the odd moment. This is one was a free download through Freebooksy, a great way to sample new authors. It’s no longer free on Amazon, but at only $3.99 for Kindle is still a bargain.

If you’ve enjoyed the Harry Potter books, I’d recommend this one. Tommy Black is a boy living with his grandfather in New York, leading a secluded life with few friends, his parents having died when he was very young. Tommy’s grandfather seems an ordinary sort, an elderly man who needs his intricately carved cane to walk, but as the pair are heading to dinner at a favorite restaurant one evening, the grandfather reveals himself as something more. They are met by magical beings called Shadows, who want the cane. It’s apparently a very powerful magical staff. When Declan Black won’t give it to him, the Shadows attack, and even the magic staff is not enough to protect them. Tommy and his grandfather flee to the restaurant owned by Declan’s old friend Baraz, and soon the restaurant is under attack by other magical creatures from Persian mythology: Djinns and Ifrits. Declan makes war on them with his magic staff, but as young Tommy watches in fear, he is losing the battle. When all seems lost, Declan gives the magic staff to Tommy and orders him to flee with a protector, Mister Ali, on a secret escape route underground that will take them to a boat on a magic river. Tommy has known nothing of the complex magic his grandfather has been long involved with, or anything much of magic at all, but he finds he has the power to create light with the staff himself, to show their way, and even to fight off evil beings like the Shadows. Thus begins an epic journey and battle across several continents as Tommy struggles to understand his new place and power, with magic creatures out to capture the powerful staff from him, and new allies in Mister Ali and a girl named Naomi he meets on his way who is a talented magician herself.

Despite my synopsis, this book has layers and is not a simple good versus evil tale. Tommy uncovers secrets about the magic he’s a part of that helps him understand and sympathize with some of his enemies, and others in the magic community that at first seem on his side and willing to help him are later revealed as enemies also out to capture the staff. It’s nicely done, the characters are well developed and real, and the situations and plot are exciting and full of unexpected twists and turns. The comparison to Harry Potter is only in the set-up of a boy thrown into the deep end of magic and having to figure things out on the fly, and a few other minor similarities, overall it’s different enough to stand on its own.

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