This imaginative new fantasy will charm fans of the Ranger’s Apprentice and Rick Riordan.
Denizen Hardwick is an orphan, and his life is, well, normal. Sure, in storybooks orphans are rescued from drudgery when they discover they are a wizard or a warrior or a prophesized king. But this is real life—orphans are just kids without parents. At least that’s what Denizen thought. . . .
On a particularly dark night, the gates of Crosscaper Orphanage open to a car that almost growls with power. The car and the man in it retrieve Denizen with the promise of introducing him to a long-lost aunt. But on the ride into the city, they are attacked. Denizen soon learns that monsters can grow out of the shadows. And there is an ancient order of knights who keep them at bay. Denizen has a unique connection to these knights, but everything they tell him feels like a half-truth. If Denizen joins the order, is he fulfilling his destiny, or turning his back on everything his family did to keep him alive?
An Irish orphan discovers his long-lost family, hidden powers, and secret destiny in this trilogy opener, which pokes gentle fun at (and embraces) tropes common to books of its kind. Upon turning 13, Denizen Hardwick is liberated from a dismal orphanage and brought to live with his formidable aunt Vivian, the leader of a small cadre of warriors who protect the world against otherworldly monsters. Discovering that he, too, can channel the power of the Tenebrae to perform magical feats (though at a physical cost, with the user's body slowly turning to iron), Denizen strives to join the Knights of the Borrowed Dark, in part to learn more about his family history. This coincides with a major crisis, putting Denizen through a terrifying trial by fire. Even referencing the ubiquity of the story's elements ("every time someone came to visit," Denizen's fellow well-read orphans "began packing their bags, ready for their new life as wizard, warrior, or prophesied king") doesn't stop it from being predictable. Where Rudden succeeds, in this solid debut, is with his engaging characters, fast-paced plot, and clever language. Ages 10 up.