By one of those funny coincidences that frequently befall readers of YA fantasy series, I put my hands on this third book in The Children of the Lamp series at the same time as The Hour of the Cobra, the second book in an equally fun time-travel series. So it happened that I read two “cobra” books in a row, and lived to tell the tale.
If you have followed The Children of the Lamp so far, you already know that John and Philippa Gaunt are twins from New York City. Being twins is the least unusual thing about them. They are brighter than average, physically fitter than average, and they had their wisdom teeth out at a very early age. This last item is a “red flag” for those who know about such things. For the Gaunt children also happen to be Djinn.
Yes, Djinn. You know, genies. Spirits of fire. Members of a tribe of good djinn that bring good luck to human beings, at last to balance the bad luck brought by their evil cousins.
But they are also, you know, kids. So they do stupid things now and then. They don’t always get along like mature adults should. And they don’t have the full power of grown-up Djinn, especially in cold weather. All these facts lead them into big trouble when a desperate friend – if the word “friend” can really describe someone as ambivalent as Dybbuk Sachertorte – calls on the twins for help. A tiny little theft that no one really noticed – just a piece of art tucked away in a U.S. military museum – has turned into a price on Dybbuk’s head. Now his accomplices are dead and a group of killers armed with deadly cobras are after him and a picture he doesn’t even understand.
The Gaunt twins agree to help Dybbuk get to the bottom of all this. First, with the aid of a friendly angel, they cover up their absence at home. Then they travel by whirlwind to England, hoping to meet up with their resourceful Uncle Nimrod. Instead, they find out that Nimrod and his friend, elderly Djinn Mr. Rakshasas, have gone abroad on unspecified business. The children follow a trail of clues leading to a monastery in northern India, where a bizarre sect funds its operations by giving deliberately bad advice to computer users who call for technical support.
The treasure they seek must not fall into the wrong hands…but the children, along with their uncle’s butler Groanin, hardly expect to fall into the wrong hands themselves. This they do, however – in spite of some really cool disguises. The seemingly friendly loonies of the religious sect turn out to be, after all, a fiendish cult that holds incredible dangers for Djinnkind, and for the children, Uncle Nimrod, and Mr. Rakshasas especially. But even if they survive this peril, they can hardly be prepared for the shock that awaits them at home.
Fans of Harry Potter should run to pick up this brilliant new series, which continues now into a fourth book: Day of the Djinn Warriors. With its fascinating alternative to the magic of witches and wizards, the good-natured appeal of its main characters, the mystery and menace surrounding some of their kind, and its all-around rollicking good fun, it is just the thing to burn away the post-Deathly Hallows blues.