At their 14th year, the boys in Quendel are sent on a quest, sometimes lasting days or even weeks on end, across Imaness. This year Marcus, although only an orphaned ward to Master Enchanter Zyll, is being allowed to go with the other five boys. Their "quest is to find the Rock of Ivanore and bring it back to Quendel.”
Perplexed as to what the Rock was and given no other hints or directions, the six boys set out for the coastal town of Dokur, knowing that those who found success were assured lifetime respect and reputable professions, while less desirable jobs awaited anyone who failed the quest.
Competition rallies the boys through treacherous forest and territories inhabited by Grocs (changelings that hunt at night for humans), Mardocks (man-beasts), Cyclops and half-breed Agorans. While each boy utilizes personal strength or cowardice, Marcus’ heroic ability using marginal magic (learned from Zyll), a protective key and Zerkes, an enchanted walking stick, provides stability and support for the troop.
They join forces in Dokur with an older Agoran, Jayson, and begin unleashing clues about the elusive Ivanore and the mystery of Celestine.
Reyes’ debut novel is a gripping fantasy just right for younger readers who clamor for adventure but are not quite ready for Lloyd Alexander’s “Grey King" or J.R.R.Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.”
Plenty of traditional archetypes move the story along: other-worldly creatures, incantations, enchanted walking sticks and magic crystals. Throughout, the battle between good and evil laces the plot together.
“The Rock of Ivanore” launches a new series, the Celestine Chronicles, which is developed in 68 short chapters, a popular format for 8- to 10-year-old-readers. Lengthy descriptions are restrained as are bloody battle scenes that might inhibit reluctant readers. The dialogue is crisp and the foreign creatures contribute to the humor with their own colloquialisms. Short, pithy details add vivid color, such as Marcus’ satchel that he must carry when all the other boys have new packs (“as limp as a large leather blossom wilting in the afternoon sun”).
The theme of “The Rock of Ivanore” resonates in Zyll’s later council to Marcus: “The magic came from within you when your confidence was strong enough, no key or any other crutch was necessary. ”
Young readers will cheer Marcus’ challenges through a labyrinth of adventures eager for the next in the series, “The Last Enchanter,” due in spring 2013.