Book Review: Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon by Rick Yancey

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How do you top a novel in which your teenage narrator dies and rises again to save the world? The author of The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp attempts it, at least. His answer involves a 3,000-year-old brass urn in which a bazillion demons have been sealed since the reign of King Solomon. They can only get out with the aid of a ring – the Seal of Solomon – whose wearer commands an army powerful enough to destroy the world. And the only person with a chance of stopping it is, you guessed it, 15-year-old Alfred Kropp.

Kropp isn’t just any 15-year-old. He is a big, strong lad with a habit of honesty that some people (including himself) confuse with being simpleminded. He chatters nonstop when nervous, which leads him to make some very clever and funny remarks and shows that he isn’t so simple after all. He also happens to be a billionaire, the last living descendant of Sir Lancelot, and a hero whose blood heals wounds. Nevertheless, by the same cruel logic that finds Harry Potter living with the Dursleys, this young paladin is stuck in a crummy foster home in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Just as Kropp is about to run away, he gets captured instead. Captured by a rogue agent of OIPEP (don’t ask), who has stolen the seal and plans to unleash a demonic reign of terror on the world. Why does he need Kropp for this? It has something to do with the boy’s blood, which has other properties OIPEP is interested in. Anyway, as soon as ex-Agent Mike Arnold smashes through his bedroom window, Kropp embarks on a non-stop journey full of murder attempts (mostly against himself), daring escapes, colossal battles, and all his worst fears. He nearly drowns, falls out of the sky, drives a very fast car through a hailstorm of fire and brimstone, and bonds with an agent whose very name – Operative Nine – means that, for the sake of his mission, everyone and everything is expendable.

If Kropp went through death in his first adventure, he goes through hell in this one. There aren’t very many young-adult adventures whose heroes face the kind of danger Kropp faces. He’s not an everyday hero. And this is not an everyday adventure. In spite of being something like a teenaged cross between Sir Galahad and James Bond, Kropp is also a thoughtful hero whose thoughts are worth knowing. For a hero who doesn’t believe in God, Kropp packs some amazing spiritual experiences into his young life. And for a high-paced thriller, this book also packs some surprisingly penetrating insights into the nature of heaven and hell. I’m not saying it will make a believer out of you; but if you believe how much Kropp grows during this adventure, you’ll have to see the third book in this series, Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull.