Into the Portal

Seven Seas. (Dungeon Crawlers Academy). Jul. 2022. 256p. pap. $13.99. ISBN 9781645059783.
Gr 3-6–Dungeon crawling isn’t for the faint of heart. Or adults. In this new fantasy series, Sullivan weaves together manga, video games, and Dungeons & Dragons to craft a universe where treasure is up for grabs, but only if you’re a child. At the Dungeon Crawler’s Academy, promising young explorers are trained, sent through a magic portal, and expected to return loot home for sale. Our lead character only ends up there by accident, bonding with a staff that imbues him with magic, but at the cost of a $5 million debt. The commercial aspect of the whole enterprise adds an interesting wrinkle to a book that plays it safe in just about every other regard. From setting to character, this series has little interest in moving beyond genre tropes, which makes it a very safe read with few creative risks. This even extends to the art, which feels drawn from an animated series and has a decent flow but lacks detail. Main character designs are expressive, if extremely young-looking for their purported age. Characters of color are mostly relegated to the background.
VERDICT A solid book that doesn’t do much to push boundaries or show readers anything they haven’t seen before. Despite this, it’s still worth a look for libraries seeking to engage readers who are into Minecraft or other dungeon crawl games.

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