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by Emily Drake
Jason Adrian seems like an ordinary boy…except that he lives with his stepmother and stepfather; and he has really wicked nightmares that wake him up every night at midnight; and he keeps getting attacked by a crow that once lured him into falling out of an attic window; and now, when an injury at tryouts sidelines him from summer soccer camp, he gets picked for an English-geek camp somewhere in Northern California. But Jason doesnt know how extraordinary he really is, until he finds out that Camp Ravenwyng is really a school for the magically talented!
Were talking about Magick, powered by a mysterious force called manna, focused by crystals, and practiced by a very small group of rather goofy adults, such as the dulcimer-playing beauty who wears long skirts and hovers several inches off the ground to make herself look taller, and the tie-dye-wearing, fiddle-playing head counselor who carries a wolfs head cane.
Very few Magickers survived a crisis event, several centuries back, in which a duel between two great Magickers caused all the Magic to be ripped out of the universe. Now, slowly, it is seeping back in, and the small remnant of surviving Magickers must race to rebuild their craft. Why the hurry? Because the evil side of Magicknown as the Dark Handthreatens to drain all the energy out of the good side, a terrible manna storm is gathering, and a vicious pack of creatures known as wolfjackals haunts the edges of Camp Ravenwyng.
At first, all this is unknown to the kids, who think the camp is really all about weaving lanyards, canoeing, swimming, and hiking. But the race is on, and the counselors begin to move up the schedule a bitsending home those students who cant hack it, after forcing them to drink a Draught of Forgetfulnessand exposing the children to potentially dangerous lessons in controlling their Magick.
Meanwhile, Jason has problems of his own. On the first night of camp he was bitten by a Wolfjackal. The scar still hurts whenever evil is near, and the memory of the creatures words (“Youre mine.”) still haunts him. Plus, one of his best friends has disappeared; his other best friend is growing more and more distant; a thief, a ghost, and a Skinwalker are at large; a creature of the deep tries to pull Jason to a watery grave; a spy and traitor is in their midst; and, through it all, Jasons nightmares continue to keep him awake at night, putting him in jeopardy of being sent home with the Draught of Forgetfulness.
Perhaps it is his fate to fail, or to be destroyed…or perhaps Jasons destiny is to save everybodys bacon! I think youll enjoy finding out in this 2001 book that is very likely to be called the closest thing to what Harry Potter would be like if he was an American. Drakes prose doesnt flow quite as smoothly as JKRs, and her depiction of Magick veers uncomfortably close to New Age Mumbo-Jumbo. But, it remains a gripping story with a clear delineation between Good and Evil. It opens the door on a spooky, exciting, and often funny magical world, and introduces a very attractive young hero (his friends are full of surprises, too).
Plus, this is the beginning of a series that now has at least three more books, including The Curse of Arkady, The Dragon Guard, and The Gate of Bones. So it also opens up a lot of ways to spend your time until the next Harry Potter book or movie comes out!