The Magician's Key

336p. (The Secrets of the Pied Piper: Bk. 2). Knopf. Nov. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780385755269; ebk. ISBN 9780385755283.
Gr 4–7—Book 1 of Cody's trilogy introduced modern siblings Max and Carter and a posse of centuries-old children lured by the Pied Piper from Hamelin, Germany, to a magical island. The second volume finds Carter trekking through the fairy tale-infused Summer Isle with several New Hameliners, plus a feisty elf and a dim-witted kobold, alternately fleeing from and seeking out Slavic witches, human-size rats, and the villainous Piper himself. Sister Max—abruptly returned to the real world at the end of the first installment—teams up with an elfling and a trollson to defeat a nefarious magician and make it back to the Isle to rescue Carter and their parents. Like the earlier title, this novel juggles a convoluted cast of characters with shifting allegiances and often opaque motivations, who traverse vast distances both in the real and magical realms. With so many elements in play, the better-developed characters from The Peddler's Road receive less differentiation here, though Cody deserves credit for making new villain Vodnik a figure of grotesque cruelty but keeping him from being too terrifying. The narrative sprawl prevents readers from investing fully in any of the main characters, and the first book's touching sibling dynamic—Max's protectiveness in tension with Carter's hard-won independence—suffers as the pair navigate separate worlds. In addition, some readers may be uneasy when the Piper magically "fixes" Carter's physical disability without consulting the boy. Still, derring-do abounds, fantastical creatures flourish, and (some) foes are vanquished.
VERDICT Fans of The Peddler's Road will likely enjoy this somewhat ungainly second installment in this folktale adventure series.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing