McCullough returns to YA with this coming of age fantasy. Kalvan Monroe discovers that elemental magic is real and that he has an affinity for fire when he accidentally conjures up a flaming familiar. This does not make his life easier, even if the fiery magical companion can render itself invisible (and more importantly, inflammable). If it weren’t for Kal’s best friend, Dave, he’d find it all too much to deal with.
Kal’s troubles with a school bully are bad enough, but it turns out that elemental magic tends to run in families, and Kal’s mother’s magic has damaged her. Will fire magic do the same to him? Or will he learn how to control it and his own temper? And is his step-father magical too, or merely oppressive?
What Kal learns about himself, about the nature of power and the power of friendship, and what it takes to face down the darkest parts of ourselves, makes for a splendid, memorable adventure. McCullough is one of those rare writers who truly understands that action is exciting, but characters are who we care about. Chris Wozney
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