Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-3972-0 $16.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-3973-7 $10.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 5-7
When Greg discovers he’s a magical Dwarf, it explains a lot, from his dad’s mysterious work trips and strange affinity for herbal teas to his family’s unbelievably terrible luck, especially on Thursdays, to why a polar bear attacked Greg during a school trip. Even worse, he finds out that his best and only friend Edwin is an Elf, a race that has been the mortal enemies of Dwarves since the beginning of time. Now a “New Magical Age” quickly approaches and while it’s not clear exactly what this means, the warring Elves and Dwarves can agree on at least one thing: it won’t be peaceful. With an affinity for awful puns, Rylander delivers a world where Dwarves, Elves, Fairies, Trolls, and other mystical peoples have long ago lost their power and have ceded the Earth to humans. In Chicago, the de facto capital of a global magical society, further divisions between those who chose to assimilate with modern humanity and the staunch separatists who remain loyal to tradition provide this story with poignant allusions to real-life tensions within globalized and diverse communities. Still, as stereotypes of Elves as shrewd, moneyed, and untrustworthy seem to outpace the view of Dwarves as simply unlucky and unconfident, the ethnic analogues and the explicit references to racism are sometimes uncomfortable and may undermine the story’s half-baked missives of racial coalition, and, Tolkien notwithstanding, the casual use of fantasy dwarves as analogues for real people is ironically regressive. An ultimate showdown between the best friends at Navy Pier ends with Greg showing mercy to Edwin as the whole city goes dark, signaling the return of magic, an end to modern amenities, and likely more storytelling to come.