Title: Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows
Author: J.M. Bergen
Release Date: February 2, 2019
“…will instantly draw in any reader who has secretly (or not so secretly) wished for a little more wonder in their world. Parallels will of course be drawn to the Harry Potter series–and rightfully so–but this book also shares much in common with Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.” – 5 Stars, Red City Review
‘Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.’
Seven years have passed, and Thomas hasn’t forgotten. He hasn’t forgotten the blue of his dad’s eyes either, or the tickle of beard on his cheek as they hugged goodbye. Last moments with a parent are memorable, even if you don’t know that’s what you’re having.
Now, with his 13th birthday rapidly approaching, Thomas’s search for magic is about to take a radical and unexpected turn. At an out-of-the-way shop filled with dusty leather books, a strange little man with gold-flecked eyes offers him an ancient text called The Book of Sorrows. The price is high and the rules are strict, but there’s no way Thomas can resist the chance to look inside.
With the mysterious book guiding the way, a strange new world is revealed – a world in which Thomas has a name and destiny far more extraordinary than he ever imagined. But time is short. Even as Thomas uncovers his secret family history, a powerful new enemy emerges, threatening to end his rise to power and destroy everything he holds dear.
Through a fresh voice, genuine characters, and a unique story line, Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows is destined to appeal to fans of Harry Potter and readers of all ages who love the search for magic and adventure.
-From Amazon (purchase here)
Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I have been reading a lot of fantasy lately, partially due to my participation in the Fantastic February readathon. After reading A Game of Thrones, I decided to pick up Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows because I needed something cheerful and fluffy as a pick-me-up. While an imperfect book at times that struggles with its pacing and clarity, J.M. Bergen has set the stage for a fun and fast-paced middle grade series.
As per usual, I like to start by discussing some of the more negative qualities of the book to get things out of the way. In this case, the plot of this book is very uneven. In general, the book is divided between the titular protagonist, Thomas Wildus, learning about the magical world and going about his normal, uneventful life. Unfortunately, the sections where Thomas is going to school and hanging out with his friends grinds the overarching plot to a halt and I didn’t find these sections interesting and found myself waiting for them to be over.
The good news is, the magical plotline is interesting and inventive. I’ll admit that I had concerns early on about whether this would be too similar to other middle grade series, most notably the famed Harry Potter, but it does a good job of finding its own space in the crowded fantasy market. As the story moves along, the magical plotline takes up a larger percentage of Thomas’ life, which meant that my opinion of the book got better and better as I got further into it.
Also of note here is that Thomas himself is a delightful protagonist. One of my pet peeves of fiction that prominently features younger characters is that they can sometimes sound like forty-year-olds trapped in preteen bodies. This is not the case here, as every young character sounds believably young. It’s a refreshing take on young protagonists, and one I deeply appreciate.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to know exactly how to rate a book like this. I didn’t find the first portion of it to be overly engaging, but I did enjoy the second half quite a bit and the ending left me excited for the rest of the series. Overall, three stars is probably an appropriate rating here as an average for my opinion and I would recommend that anyone curious about this tale give it a try!
Final Score: 3/5