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Book review: 'The Inventor's Secret' is a fun, inventive read

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 1:00 p.m. MST

"The Inventor's Secret" by Chad Morris is the first in the Cragbridge Hall series for middle readers. (Deseret Book) "The Inventor's Secret" by Chad Morris is the first in the Cragbridge Hall series for middle readers. (Deseret Book)

"THE INVENTOR'S SECRET: Cragbridge Hall, Book 1," by Chad Morris, Shadow Mountain, $17.99, 336 pages (f) (ages 8 and up)

Utahn Chad Morris, the author of "The Inventor's Secret," has achieved the improbable.

He's written a book that is similar enough to the Harry Potter story that it feels like a welcome home, but it's different enough that it's all right.

Abby and Derick's grandfather is an amazing inventor — so much so that a special school — Cragbridge Hall — has been set up in his honor.

Only the very brightest and most deserving kids are chosen to go there where as students they learn from almost magical tools such as the Bridge that can bring history alive for them. They all use finger rings to guide them, keep track of where they are and what they're doing and sync with the school's "magic."

There are mysteries and secrets at Cragbridge from hidden passages and secret keys to moving walls and bricks.

The teachers include one who appears to be hostile to Abby but may actually be on her side.

Abby immediately has enemies because it appears she won her place at the school simply because of her name while her twin brother and the other students had to qualify by doing something stupendous.

Her only friend is a talkative, kind of loopy girl who has a crush on her brother.

Basically, the two have to combat an evil man who disagrees with the inventor as to whether the world's past can and should be changed.

It's a clash of wills and a battle that has Abby and Derick passing arduous virtual tests. He fights a bear. She ends up inside a beaver dam hiding from armed braves.

Along the way, there are all kinds of little puzzles to solve including riddles using assorted letters of the alphabet, lockets and a cube that will only open from the inside, memory games relying on things the twins' grandfather used to tell them.

They have to rescue their parents from peril and save the world from destruction.

Abby has to work against a tide of unpopularity, and both kids have to decide who to trust and who to fear.

It's also free of any swearing or detailed violence, although it could be a bit scary for younger readers. It would be appropriate for middle grade and young adult readers.

So, again, there are some plot devices that make the reader think about the magical world of Harry Potter, but they are forgivable because the story is well-written with a clear goal, and it's an easy read.

An interesting note: The author has included Mormon prophet Joseph Smith as one of the icons of history. It sort of a random throw-in, but still interesting.

Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com. Email: haddoc@desnews.com

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