cover image The Wizard's Map: Tartan Magic, Book One

The Wizard's Map: Tartan Magic, Book One

Jane Yolen. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-15-202067-5

Yolen gathers all the ingredients for a compelling middle grade fantasy novel, but the recipe falls short in this first book of her Tartan Magic series. Reluctantly spending his summer vacation with his family in Scotland, visiting his mother's foster parents, 13-year-old Peter grows scornful when Gran and Da start talking about magic as if it were an everyday occurrence. But after Peter's four-year-old sister, Molly, colors on a strange map in the attic, thereby freeing a power-mad wizard, Peter and his twin sister, Jennifer, must admit that magic not only exists, but is far more menacing than they had ever imagined. The sorcerer kidnaps Molly in order to force the twins to cede the magical map to him, then holds the rest of the family hostage. Aided by a dragon, a unicorn and a dog brought back to life after being entrapped in an iron bench, Jennifer uses her innate but undeveloped magical powers to defeat the malevolent wizard. Eschewing character development, Yolen gives readers little reason to care for the fate of her protagonists. Her unorthodox decision to have the adults ""in"" on the magic raises the stakes but, because they are passive bystanders who contribute little to the resolution, her fantasy plot is that much more difficult to swallow. Though some readers may find light entertainment here, most will be left wanting a more believable, substantive story than this tale delivers. Ages 8-up. (May)