Frost, Mark. The Paladin Prophecy.
25 September 2012, Random House
Will West's parents have always told him to fly under the radar-- which is really hard when you can run freakishly fast and score so high on standardized tests that elite private schools come recruiting you. Will finds out why his parents wanted him to lay low soon enough. As soon as Dr. Robbins at The Center for Integrated Learning contacts him, things begin to go wrong with his parents. His mother's eye go blank, and his father first texts him to run away from the threatening men in black cars and then disappears. Luckily, Dr. Robbins agrees to fly him out to the school in Wisconsin from California, and he is helped by Nando, a sympathetic taxi driver who continues to help him when he gets to the school. Strange things happen on the plane as well, with pod creatures as well as guardian angels appearing. Once at the school, Will is grateful to make friends fairly quickly, because the mysteries and attacks keep happening, and go on happening for 560 pages. However, I don't want to say too much, because there are any number of twists and turns that I don't want to spoil. There is definitely going to be a book two: Alliance.
I love Michael Sullivan's description on Goodreads: "A
wild genre mash-up with enough Tolkien references for any fantasy fan,
enough gadgetry for Men in Black sci-fi nuts, and enough creepy darkness
for those gothic horror/Darren Shan aficionados."
Strengths: Number one: Will is a cross country runner, and this has one of the best race descriptions I've read, as well as a great coach. Number two: It's a huge, honking fantasy book that will take my avid Geek Boy reads about three entire days to read. I adored the character of Nando (taxi driving is boring, so he's willing to do surveillance for Will), and the ensemble cast was great. Even a smart, strong love interest for Will!
Weaknesses: I personally struggled with the whole Paladins and prophecy thing, and will no doubt have severe fantasy amnesia when recounting this one to students, but it doesn't matter. This was easy to get caught up in, and I just enjoyed the ride!