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The Key & the Flame

Review

The Key & the Flame

Eleven year old Holly Shepard was uninterested in the ordinary, but it was an ordinary life she was living. Until, that is, her parent’s work took the family to England for a month one summer. Upon arriving in their temporary home, Holly found a key; one, apparently, meant just for her. Claire M. Caterer’s debut kid’s book, THE KEY AND THE FLAME follows Holly and her two companions into another world. And in that other world, Holly is far from ordinary. In fact, she is a magician so powerful she can save the enchanted creatures that live there.

"Mixing traditional elements of fantasy-adventure stories, some interesting new ideas and a group of unlikely heroes, THE KEY AND THE FLAME is great fun!...A juicy, entertaining and far from ordinary tale!"

When Holly enters the cottage in Hawkesbury where she will be staying with her parents and her younger brother Ben, she loves it right away. A small box left for her on the sofa is intriguing and the old-fashioned iron key inside mysterious, adding to the charm and sense of adventure. The enclosed note only adds to the enigma. It reads, “only the strong of heart take the circular path, for to return from whence you came brings the ending back to the beginning.” The key, it seems, was left for Holly by Mr. Gallaway, the landlord, and though Holly is not sure why he gifted her with it, she does know that it is a mighty gift indeed. Like all keys, magic or not, this one opens things, and the first thing Holly finds it can open is a tree. There in the woods, just beyond the cottage, is an old oak set amongst the beech trees, and in the center of the oak is a keyhole. Of course this leads to another world, one called Anglielle, with some similarities to Holly’s own but yet, full of danger and magic. And, as Holly quickly learns, it is a world in which she is important and anything but usual.

It all starts with a day exploring Darton Castle, which ends with Holly traveling through the tree, using her key and bringing two other kids with her; her allergy-prone computer geek brother and a boy from the village named Everett. Everett recognizes there is something special about Holly, but he is jealous of the key and the attention she is receiving from Mr. Galloway. Unbeknownst to anyone, Everett also has a key, but one he took, not one he was given. In Anglielle, Holly is quickly recognized as an Adept, one innately skilled in magic with the potential for great power. But, the other Adepts of Anglielle have been hunted and killed over the years, leaving no one to champion the other magicfolk like centaurs, leogryffs and all manner of talking animals.

Shortly after the trio arrives in Anglielle, Ben and Everett are taken prisoner by royal knights, and Holly is discovered by a centaur and brought to the home of a magician named Almaric. It is in Almaric’s home that Holly learns about the tragic history of the Adepts in Anglielle and how her arrival is cause for hope among the magicfolk there. Her only thought, though, is the rescue of her brother and her new friend.  Meanwhile, Ben and Everett are doing what they can to survive confinement in the castle. Soon they are befriended by the young prince, and Everett is taught to joust and use magic. But can the prince be trusted? Will Everett’s greed get the best of him? Will Ben survive his allergies? Will Holly come to their aide? And what happens to her magic and her chance to go home if her key is lost?

Mixing traditional elements of fantasy-adventure stories, some interesting new ideas and a group of unlikely heroes, THE KEY AND THE FLAME is great fun! The pacing is nice, the reading level moderate but with some manageable language challenges, and the plot and characters are compelling. Caterer leaves plenty of room for a return trip to Anglielle in another book but THE KEY AND THE FLAME can be read alone to satisfaction. A juicy, entertaining and far from ordinary tale!

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on April 23, 2013

The Key & the Flame
by Claire M. Caterer

  • Publication Date: April 2, 2013
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
  • ISBN-10: 1442457414
  • ISBN-13: 9781442457416