Looking for a fast-paced contemporary MG fantasy read? Thomas Wildus might just be your new best friend.
Book: Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows by JM Bergen
Read before: No
Ownership: Paperback ARC sent by bookpublicityservices.com for fair review. All opinions my own.
First things first, there’ll be no mention of Harry Potter here. Not every book that involves a kid discovering magic needs to be billed as the new Harry Potter, and that’s often unfair to the new books! Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows has a much more modern, edgy feel to it – Thomas is very much a child of the current time in the way that he acts and speaks. When he discovers a magical book, in a bookshop he’s sure wasn’t there yesterday, it opens up his eyes to a world of magic. He gains powers he never imagined, and learns that every person in his life, from the friendly bookseller to his missing father, has been keeping dark secrets from him…
This book is an extraordinarily quick read, despite not being particularly short. The action pretty much never lets up once Thomas discovers his powers, which means that this should capture the imagination of even the most reluctant reader. The powers are very cool, ranging from telekinesis to being able to shoot lightning bolts, and I really enjoyed the methods with which Thomas was trained (essentially, learn fast or die). You should all know by now that I’m a sucker for a training montage!
However. While I would never take a book away from a child based on their gender, I think that this book feels extremely ‘boyish’ for some reason. Thomas’ relationship with his best friend Enrique leads to a lot of ‘banter’ and trying to outdo each other that I found rather tedious. Most notably, there are only three female characters, none of whom are allowed nearly as much page time or characterisation as any of the many male characters. Thomas’ mum is shown as pretty neglectful due to her working schedule, and only appears at the very beginning of the book in person (there is a phone call with her later on). Adelia, though she has an interesting backstory and is supposed to be an expert in the magical field, barely even speaks and is absent for a good part of Thomas’ training. And Peggy, Thomas’ crush at school, is purely there to be crushed upon. She has no personality and no purpose. I found this disappointing.
If you can look past the lack of women, then there is a lot of diversity in the races and abilities of the characters, which is good to read. Thomas has all the naivete of a precocious 13 year old boy, so it’s great to see that the world into which he is thrust is peopled with so many interesting examples of strength, and I’d like to see him continue to develop over the course of the series. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an entertaining and pacey ride, if the sequels continue like this.
Four out of five cats from me!