In a dreary isolated house somewhere in the UK, 16 year old Zach Black hates his uncle Thandel and wishes his sick sister, Anna, would recover swiftly. Zach and Anna recently lost their parents and were placed in the care of their bachelor uncle who is rather creepy. Zach stumbles upon a doorway into another world and is swept off to adventure by a very hairy man, the werewolf William Weaver. Once in Endra, a mirror of Earth, Zach is off and running for his life as zombies chase William and his companions, including the injured and unconscious vampire Neanna. Once they reach relative safety, they explain to Zach that their queen is dying and that Zach must help save her as she is the mirror twin of Zach’s own sister; if the Endra queen dies so does Anna.
Plenty of action follows Zach around as he tries to figure out the rules to Endra and search out a key and a box with a heart in it. Back home, Zach is merely a 16 year old kid but in Endra he is a Peacekeeper, complete with magically reloading crossbows. Lots of vile forces work against Zach and his friends, but the worst of them is Throat. He oversees the care of the dying queen and also directs Thandel’s ministrations of the weakening Anna. He also has spidepedes (spelling?) that are pretty creepy, even for this bug lover. Neanna, once she wakes up, and William are both forces to be reckoned with and are loyal friends to Zach. Their adventures take them back into Earth at one point (and it was quite fun to see their mere appearance terrorize the populace), through a haunted graveyard, and to a prison. William has a pretty detailed family background and he was the most in-depth character in the novel. I quite enjoyed learning about his motivations, past injuries, his shame, and his family.
I think this story is geared more for teens as some of the imagery was pretty simple. For example, referring to what would be a graveyard on Earth as a Gray Yard in Endra. However, while some things lacked imagination, there were plenty of beasties that did require the author’s imagination – such as the spidepedes. We get to know Zach through his actions and don’t get a whole lot on his back story. There are 3 female side characters and all 3 start off needing rescuing. Eventually, Neanna rallies and becomes a force in action and wit. For much of the book, Anna is a character to be pitied and hopefully rescued, though she does get to do a little independent action late in the book. The queen must still be rescued. There are 1 or 2 other minor female roles but they didn’t stand out. So most of the action is carried out by the males. I would have liked to see this more balanced. It’s a fantasy world, equality could happen. Still, I enjoyed it enough to check out Book 2 in the series.
The Narration: Fred Wolinsky did a pretty good job with this book. He had a variety of voices, both male and female, both human and nonhuman, and each was distinct. I especially liked his voice for William, which had a werewolfish burr to it and the occasional howl. He also threw in some special effects, such as for the ghosts. They were well placed and weren’t overdone. He gave some of the ghosts a Scottish burr and some ghouls a Hispanic accent. While I personally felt the Hispanic accent was a little overdone (I hear Spanish weekly if not daily), it will probably work for most folks. I do have to say that most of the time the voice for Zach sounded more like a 12 year old boy instead of one for a boy on the cusp of manhood.