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This popular series, which, as of this writing, runs four books strong, should appeal very strongly to Harry Potter fans. Its hero is a messy-haired little boy who never knew his father and who discovers at age 10 or 11 that he has a magical gift. As a result, Charlie is enrolled at a school where other endowed children study, eating at house tables below the staff at their head table, and sleeping in draughty dormitories. The school crawls with secrets, and the forces of good and evil are constantly clashing, constantly striving for control of the magic especially, it seems, of Charlies magic. For it doesn’t take long to realize that Charlie has a saving people thinggee, why does this sound familiar?
Of course, in most other ways, this book is as different from Harry Potter as a book can be, while remaining perfect for a 10-year- old just coming off Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone. Charlie isnt an orphan; its only his father whos dead (supposedly), and though he lives with a wonderful mother and grandmother and a strange but affectionate uncle, he also has a second grandma who is an absolute nightmare…and her three spinster sisters are even worse! When they find out that Charlie can hear the voices of people in photographs, the nasty Yewbeam aunts pack him off to Bloors Academy, where, in fact, most students are gifted in music, drama, or art…but a handful, like Charlie, have strange magical gifts.
These twelve endowed children descend from the mysterious Red King, whose ten children split into factions and started a battle between good and evil that has divided the magically endowed ever since.
So Charlie rides a bus, not a train, to school. He gets to visit home on the weekends (when he doesn’t have detention). He gets to wander not a castle, but the ruins of a castle. He meets shape-changers, hypnotists, telekinetics, a boy who talks to animals, and another boy who experiences other peoples feelings when he puts on their clothes. He meets some cool non-magical kids too. While Charlie makes plenty of friends and enemies at school, the most perplexing mysteries have to do with his own family. Well, that and a child whose family gave her up to the evil Bloors, and who has been under a spell of hypnosis ever since…
These books are a fast read, formatted to be easy on young eyes and prefaced by helpful charts and explanations. After reading this first book in the series, I was glad I had bought all four books, because enough mysteries remained unsolved to ensure that I couldn’t stop at just one.