The Familiars: Animal Wizardry by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

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The Familiars: Animal Wizardry by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: A magical whirlwind of action and adventure as three familiars go on a quest to save their wizards.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: September 2010
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0007371778

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Meet Aldwyn, Skylar and Gilbert, three familiars to three wizards in training. Aldwyn the cat is something of an impostor however, since unlike Skylar, a vision-casting bird, and Gilbert, a prophesying frog, he doesn't have any magical powers. He is just a cat-about-town, sneaking a fish here, dodging a meat cleaver there, and he fell into the role of familiar quite by accident whilst running into a pet shop to escape a bounty hunter. Still, when the boy wizard he works for, Jack, is kidnapped along with his friends, Aldwyn and the other familiars must find a way to track them down and rescue them before they are all killed.

I really enjoyed this story. Aldwyn is an appealing character - a sort of down and dirty action hero who always, somehow, manages to land on his feet. Perhaps because he's a cat! He's on the run from the start, and the action never really lets up. The fact that it's a bounty hunter chasing after him initially seemed a little bit 'Hollywood' - he's just an alley cat after all - but I soon forgot my quibble over this for as the three familiars battle their way across the country, facing many dangerous obstacles along the way, there is plenty of exciting adventure. The fact that Aldwyn is hiding his true identity from Skylar and Gilbert also adds to the tension, as at any moment you wonder if he'll be caught out. The friendship between the three familiars works well, and I liked the way Aldwyn thought on his feet to disguise his lack of magical abilities. My only query really was whether a cat, a bird and a frog could actually, realistically, do all the things they seem to do? Especially since they don't have fingers and thumbs. Also, why did Gilbert never ride on Aldwyn's back - surely that would've been faster than him hopping for miles on end?

Anyway, having the story told from the point of view of the familiars is fun, and gives it an interesting slant. There's lots of humour in the story. I particularly liked Gilbert the frog who sees visions of the future in puddles (not always reliably) and spends most of the rest of his time thinking about flies. There's nothing too horribly scary for any younger readers enjoying it as a shared read-aloud tale, though I think probably it's best for the 9+ age group to get their teeth into, reading alone and getting hooked into a real page-turner.

I suspect there will be comparisons to Harry Potter thanks to the magical elements, wizards in training and spells chanted in Latin. The three main characters did actually remind me of the Potter trio with Aldwyn (Harry) the hero having some mysterious past history in his life that he doesn't know the full story of, Skylar (Hermione) being the know-it-all female and Gilbert (Ron) providing comic relief with his bumbling yet kind-hearted nature. Yet really comparisons are unfair as the stories are very different, and the book stands up perfectly well on its own merits as a fast-paced, funny, exciting adventure story. I definitely recommend it, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: Adventure lovers might also like to try the Kit Salter series by Natasha Narayan.

Buy The Familiars: Animal Wizardry by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Familiars: Animal Wizardry by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Familiars: Animal Wizardry by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Familiars: Animal Wizardry by Adam Epstein and Andrew Jacobson at Amazon.com.


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