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Azure Kirby
Utah writer Matthew J. Kirby is the author of "Spell Robbers," which is the first in the Quantum League series.

THE QUANTUM LEAGUE, No. 1: Spell Robbers,” by Matthew J. Kirby, Scholastic Press, $16.99, 272 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

Ben’s invitation to attend a science class ends up being more than simple science. It is experimenting with actuation and thoughts disturbing the universe to turn into an actual physical event.

“As Actuators,” Dr. Hughes says, “your thoughts guide the world toward a possibility by tipping the scale of probability in one direction or another.”

These physical shifts through controlled thoughts and visualization are what most people attribute to accidents of nature. But without control, and in the hands of the enemy, actuation can result in wreckage and complete annihilation.

When Hughes begins experimenting with portable devices allowing actuation to be performed outside of the science laboratory, the Dread Cloaks break into the lab and threaten the life of Ben and Peter, who have become proficient in actuation.

The boys are detached from their former lives and taken as members of the Quantum League, a global agency that monitors quantum activity and protects the world from divergent powerful groups.

Ben becomes a double agent for the Quantum League and the Dread Cloaks, hoping to help free Hughes, who has been kidnapped. The goal is to retrieve the portable actuator, which could cause dangerous weather shifts, physical destruction and domination over worthy science experimentation. Ben agrees to this mission when he’s promised a return (“reattachment”) to his former life at home.

Utah author Matthew J. Kirby opens the Quantum League series with dynamic characters in teenagers Ben, Peter and Sasha, who demonstrate great promise in science, especially actuation. Ronin is a multifaceted young scientist and defector of the League; no one is sure of his true identity and alliance.

The plot of “Spell Robbers” moves with action-packed momentum placed in detailed settings: a disbanded amusement park, dark vacant neighborhoods and an eerie church that serves as the Quantum League headquarters. Something unexpected from Ben near the end of the book creates a cliffhanger that will leave readers anxious for a resolution in the next book of the series.

The language is clean, and any violence is described in an age-appropropriate way.

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Kirby is the author of “The Clockwork Three,” which was named a Publisher’s Weekly Flying Start for beginning writers; “Icefall,” which won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery and the PEN Literary Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature; “Cave of Wonders,” the fifth book in the Infinity Ring series; and “The Lost Kingdom.

If you go ...

What: "Spell Robbers" launch party and Matthew J. Kirby book signing

When: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, matthewjkirby.com/kirbside

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of the featured book from The King's English.

Email: marilousorensen@ymail.com