On the surface, The Adventures of Benjamin Skyhammer is another simple YA fantasy about an outcast boy (one of two humans born without magic), with a special ability (only he can read the retrograph snapshots of other lives), who lives for adventure (he excavate relics to sell to collectors), who is destined to save the word (from an evil sorcerer). He’s a little Harry Potter, a little Young Indiana Jones, and even a little Frodo Baggins.
I say ‘on the surface’ because the story never quite goes where you expect, especially as it careens towards a frantic surprise ending (that I’m not sure I entirely liked, but I understood). Definitely suitable for younger readers, it’s just as much fun for us not-so-younger readers as well.
This is a busy book, with a lot of different characters, races, and magical elements, but that’s precisely what I look for in a fantasy novel. I love to get lost in a world that’s familiar, yet completely different, and to surround myself with fantastic creatures. We’re sort of dropped into the story, without a lot of preamble or asides to explain things, which means you have to pay attention and accept that it may take a few pages before you understand the significance of something. As a reader who gets easily frustrated with the spoon-fed approach, I loved that.
On a closing note, I will say I enjoyed Higgins more than I did Skyhammer, but that may have less to do with any flaws in his character, and more to do with my tendency to latch onto the sidekick.
All in all, a fun read, with definite cross-generational appeal.