Kirby, Matthew J. Spell Robbers (The Quantum League #1)
January 28th 2014
by Scholastic Press
Ben's hardworking, graduate student single mother is glad to send him to an afternoon science camp at the university she is attending, but when Ben gets there, he realizes that it is really a super secret group run by Professor Hughes, who is working on a portable acuator. It turns out that Ben's new friend Peter can harness molecules with his mind and make rain, snow, or fire appear, and Ben has this ability, too. Things are going well until the lab is attacked and Professor Hughes is kidnapped by the Dread Cloaks, and Ben and Peter are taken away to join the Quantum League. Because of their abilities to make things manifest, they aren't given a choice, but are "detached" from their families and trained with the help of Sasha, who has a mysterious past. Peter is just as glad, because his father expects too much of him, but Ben is worried about his mother, who has some problems getting through life. When former Quantum League operative Ronin shows up as being in league with the Dread Cloaks, the League offers to reunite him with the daughter he has long thought dead if he acts as a double agent. He agrees-- if he can take Ben, too. The two try to fool the Dread Cloaks into thinking that they will help them, and hope to use them to retrieve Professor Hughes. Things work out fairly well, and Peter is glad to stay with the League, but nothing feels right to Ben. Will the shadowy Richter play a larger role in the second book?
Strengths: I really enjoyed the first part of the book. I was intrigued by Ben's family life, and thought the actuation at the campus lab was kind of fun. After the Dread Cloaks appeared, there was a lot more action, but what I really enjoyed was getting to know Ben. There's lots of intrigue, adventure, and magic/science fiction, so I can see this being popular with readers who like super hero novels, spy novels, or books with magical realism.
Weaknesses: The whole detachment thing bothered me, since I was drawn into the story by Ben's family life. The double crossing got a bit wearying-- after a while, it was sort of like Artemis Fowl and I really couldn't tell who were the bad guys or the good guys. Still, I think I will buy this. There are so many fantasy books out there, and so few of them have anything fresh.