While attending Cragbridge Hall for their first semester of study in virtual reality projects, Abby and Derek were exposed to some of the secrets of their inventor grandfather. In Book 1, “The Inventor’s Secret,” they assisted in temporarily stopping the powerful Muns, whose plans involved domination and changing events in history for his own gain.
In the second book, “The Avatar Battle,” Muns remains a threat to Grandfather Cragbridge’s work and the children continue to be involved. Grandfather’s resistance to time travel and changing history is apparent: ”Change could set in motion other changes that might have altered our own reality so much that neither of us would ever exist ... greater tragedies, perhaps wars.”
Now in the second semester at Cragbridge Hall, Abby finds that her grades are not acceptable and will likely result in termination. Her study habits do not win favor with friends who accuse her of being admitted into the prestigious Council of Keys as “grandfather’s pet.”
Derek, on the other hand, pays little attention to his grades and is entrenched with animal robot avatars, seeking to become a member of the elite Crash team who can handle their avatars with finesse. Also, as a member of the Council of Keys, he survives a time-shift battle during the Civil War, undergoes a painful simulation as a cancer patient and learns the art of invisibility.
As key-holding members of the Council, the children are tempted by Muns to give up the keys that control the major simulator so they can be assured of safety from “accidents.” But loyalty to their grandfather wins out, and they, with the assistance of their friends and teachers, try to figure out what series of steps their enemies may take to change the past and alter the present.
Utah author Chad Morris has added another layer of suspense and adventure to the Cragbridge Hall series where Abby and Derek develop skills in a 2074 virtual-reality world. In “The Avatar Battle,” teachers and friends, some supportive and a few suspected of treason, are pivotal to the story. The author leaves many unknowns as clues for the readers to solve.
The text contains no off-color language. Some events containing violence are alluded to rather than graphic in detail.
It is the grandfather, Oscar Cragbridge, who grounds the story and takes it in a philosophical direction with tidbits of wisdom worth living by. For example, because Grandfather realizes the destructive effects of evil control, he admonishes others that, “Freedom is power. Some will use their freedom to create wonderful, beautiful things. Others will use it in other ways. Both will have natural consequences.”
“The Avatar Battle” is a delight for readers who clamor for spirited battles with animal robots while chasing clues that leak out of an other-worldly plot. A third book in the series could resolve many of the problems at Cragbridge Hall.
Morris' "The Inventor's Secret" is one of five 2013 Whitney Award finalists in the middle gread category. The Whitney Awards recognize novels by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
If you go ...
What: "The Avatar Battle" launch party
When: Friday, Feb. 28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Farmington Community Arts Center, 120 S. Main St., Farmington
What: Chad Morris is one of the the special guests at Tyler Whitesides' free Jammin' Janitors performance
When: Saturday, March 1, doors open at 3 p.m., show begins at 4 p.m.
Where: Cottonwood High School, 5715 S. 1300 East, Salt Lake City
What: Chad Morris and Brandon Mull book signings
When: Tuesday, March 11, 6 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble, Layton Market Center, 1780 N. Woodland Park Drive, Layton
When: Wednesday, March 12, 7 p.m.
Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City
Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.
When: Thursday, March 13, 6 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble, Jordan Landing, 7157 Plaza Center Drive, West Jordan
When: Friday, March 14, 6 p.m.
Where: Barnes and Noble, University Crossings Plaza, 330 E. 1300 South, Orem