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Book review: 'Penumbras' intrigues with magic, relationships, fights against darkness

By Ashlynn Green

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Aug. 24 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"MIDDLE SCHOOL MAGIC, Vol. 2: Penumbras," by Braden Bell, Cedar Fort, $14.99, 320 pages (f) (ages 12 and up)

“Penumbras” by Braden Bell is an exciting addition to the Middle School Magic series that is a satisfying read — for now.

This adventurous novel depicts the story of three best friends, twins Conner and Lexa Dell and Melanie Stephens, who are all Magi — they have special powers using light to fight the darkness.

After a close encounter with their enemies in Disneyland, they decided they were ready to relax and enjoy their summer training with other Magi, until unexplainable things started happening. Pilaf, a boy at their school, could hear their thoughts — but he wasn’t a Magi. Teacher and Magi trainer Dr. Timberi was still injured from saving their lives. And Conner was acting weird months after being taken by the Darkhands, who thrive in using the darkness and causing misery.

Lexa is absolutely horrified when her twin brother Conner starts to fall for their best friend, Melanie. It used to be the three amigos, but middle school friendships can be fickle — especially when love is involved.

Bell, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a very realistic account of middle school and theater. His experience as a music and theater teacher at Harding Academy could only add to his professional background of the story.

This novel was action packed and full of light violence through the battles between light and dark, or good and evil. The darkest part of the book is when one of the main characters recounts being tricked into believing they had tortured animals and people. There is no foul language or inappropriate situations.

"Penumbras" could stand alone through Bell’s descriptive recaps, but would be better if read with the first book in the Middle School Magic series, “The Kindling.

A third book is scheduled for July 2014.

Bell often asks questions that could contribute to books he’s currently writing, and occassionally gives hints as to what’s coming next on his Facebook fan page.

Ashlynn Green is a wife, a daughter, a sister, a pug-lover and a huge believer of the family. Her email is ashlynn@screamoproductions.com

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