Scholastic Press, $16.99, 207 pages
The Secret Kingdom tells the story of Timoken and Zobayda, sibling royalty from a hidden kingdom deep in Africa. After their father is killed by a creature known as a viridee, the two children are sent into the wild by their mother, the queen. Before leaving, they are given an elixir that allows them to live forever if they take a drop on each new moon, and they are also given a magical cloth spun from the silk of the last moon spider; gifts their father received years before from a forest-jinni. Throughout the story, fantastical things happen – the children fly on a camel and three magical leopards fight a demon-possessed horse. The story culminates with an epic battle centered around revenge.
This book attempts to capitalize on the success author Jenny Nimmo found with the 13 books in the Charlie Bone series. Instead of following the adventures of Charlie and his friends, this new series chronicles the history of the Red King, the heir of Charlie and his magical colleagues.
This first installment is everything a young adult could want in a book. There is fantastical adventure, talking creatures, magic capes, flying camels, and evil sorcerers bent on world destruction. The writing is fast paced and engaging; each page pulling the reader to the next one. Nimmo once again has a success on her hands.
As entertaining as the book is, however, it doesn’t seem to have any defining characteristic to set it apart from all the other young adult fantasy on the market. When the last page is turned, it could have just as easily been the last page of a dozen other books currently on bookstore and library shelves. Although this book is enjoyable, it feels too much like Nimmo is trying to continue riding the success she found with Charlie Bone, instead of creating an equally engaging and creative story with this new series.