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  • Confessions of a Dork Lord by Mike Johnston
  • Alaine Martaus

Johnston, Mike Confessions of a Dork Lord; illus. by Marta Altés. Putnam, 2020 [352p] Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-4081-8 $13.99 E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-5247-4082-5 $8.99 Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4-7

For twelve-year-old Azrael Bal Gorath the Wicked, aka Wick, aka Dork Lord, sixth grade at Nightshadows school unfolds in a series of embarrassments, from failing to cast the simplest of shoe-tying spells to coming in last on the Index of Muscle, Mayhem, and Magic. Wick also lives in the shadow of his legendary father, the Dark Lord Who Vanished, and who left strict instructions that his heir was to have no help while earning his throne. This supposedly leadership-building dictum soon leads to near disaster, when the realm's most powerful weapon, the Scepter of Ultimate Darkness, disappears and Wick sets off on an ill-advised quest to retrieve it. When his travels lead to revelations and a final showdown with bullies, though, Wick might just discover he has talents enough to win the day. Wick isn't the only one to suffer from inevitable comparisons here, as this cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Harry Potter struggles to emerge from the shadow of its predecessors. Johnston offers up plenty of wordplay, bathroom humor, spells, and silliness, but ultimately the story gets bogged down by an overabundance of world building, while simultaneously shortchanging what could be a quirky series of misadventures. Undeveloped sidekicks, meanwhile, leave readers with a main character who's pitiable but not likable. Still, friendly print and sturdily cheerful illustrations add accessibility, and this novel might just find a home in hands of those who want a familiar zero-to-hero story with the flavor of their favorite tabletop role-playing game. [End Page 212]



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