368 pages; published January 2013
Jinx is having a pretty rough time. Born into a humble clearing in the magical forest of the Urwald, his stepparents (both his real parents have died) have decided that he’s a bit inconvenient, what with the new baby coming and all. So, his not-very-nice stepfather is planning to abandon him to die in the thick of the forest. Jinx is saved at the last minute, but unfortunately by Simon, who is a good cook and a decent-but-possibly-evil wizard who may or may not be planning to do something dastardly to Jinx.
The bad news: Jinx’s stepfather is about to abandon him in the thick woods of the Urwald to die.
The good news: Jinx has been saved by a wizard named Simon.
The bad news: Simon may be evil.
The good news: Trolls have carried off Jinx’s stepfather to his death.
The bad news: Jinx is now sort of enslaved by the wizard.
The good news: Simon makes excellent pumpkin pie.
The bad news: Jinx may have been the victim of Simon’s evil spell that has stolen Jinx’s ability to see people’s feelings.
The good news: He can still talk to the trees.
The bad news: Jinx has headed out alone into the dangerous Urwald to seek his fortune and solve the mystery of his missing powers.
The good news: He has found two companions to come with him on his adventure.
The bad news: Both his new friends seemed to be cursed … and intent on sending Jinx straight into the arms of the almost-certainly-evil wizard, the Bonemaster.
Will there be any more good news?
This well-written, clever, rollicking fun fantasy gives me the perfect thing to recommend next time someone asks for a romance-free story for a middle-grade boy.