Balthazar Fabuloso in the Lair of the Humbugs

I.J. Brindle, illus. by Sholto Walker. Holiday House, $16.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8234-3577-7
Twelve-year-old Balthazar Fabuloso is fed up with being the odd duck in his family of magicians—he can perform only "stage magic," not "real magic." After a humiliating incident during a dinner theater performance, Balthazar vows to quit the show, and his family vanishes into thin air. Then, the smelly and strange "Incomp'rable Ignatius" appears, Balthazar's uncle and guardian who disappeared 20 years earlier; they are joined by the unruly 12-year-old Pagan Fistula, a member of a rival magician family, when her family disappears, too. Their challenge: destroy the Gloaming, "a dark force with only one desire—to devour all living magic and return the world to the chaos and nothingness which are its domain." Brindle's first novel has strongly descriptive writing ("Instantly, the scattered pools of sympathy froze into lumps of ice") and plenty of adventure, and she supplements the main narrative with grouchy excerpts from Pagan's journal. There's also a lot of insult-slinging and racing around, but while the ending suggests future adventures for Balthazar, it's unclear whether this scattered outing will earn the young magician many fans. Art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/14/2016
Release date: 03/01/2016
Genre: Children's
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