Martin Booth, Author . Little, Brown $14.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-316-15575-5

The convoluted and unfocused first book in Booth's (War Dog ) new series begins with a promising hook, but then mostly just meanders through its countryside setting. Twins Pip and Tim and their parents have just moved into an enormous 15th-century house called Rawne Barton, which has been uninhabited for roughly a decade. The sister and brother find that the walls between their bedrooms are unusually thick and, from a secret panel behind Pip's bed, out pops Sebastian Rawne, a boy who claims to be 12—and to have been born in 1430. The boy says he has been living in this universe but also a parallel universe ever since, working against the efforts of the mad alchemist Pierre de Loudéac, who wants to create a homunculus, "an artificial creature... a living human, yet one that has no soul," for evil purposes. The story arc involving Sebastian and de Loudéac unfolds at a snail's pace, interrupted by lengthy stretches of historical background and explorations of the concepts of alchemy. Although the premise of finding a visitor from the past within the walls of a centuries-old manor is intriguing, this story line gets buried by the other aspects of the tale, and the book loses steam quickly. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 12/20/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Ebook - 978-0-316-02550-8
Open Ebook - 978-0-316-02549-2
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4193-2935-7
Paperback - 183 pages - 978-0-316-01285-0
Ebook - 88 pages - 978-0-316-13837-6
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