cover image The Secret Kingdom

The Secret Kingdom

Jenny Nimmo. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-439-84673-8

Nimmo expands her popular Charlie Bone universe with this first book in the Chronicles of the Red King series about Charlie's ancestor, the Red King of Africa. His name is Timoken, and he is blessed and cursed at birth with jinni gifts%E2%80%94flight, the ability to speak with animals%E2%80%94that give him "one foot in the world of men and the other in the realm of enchantments." Timoken and his sister, Zobayda, are thrown into a cruel world to find a new home after their birthplace is sacked by the evil viridees, and Timoken's gifts both save the children's lives and draw the viridees eternally after them. The narrative voice is direct and matter-of-fact, conveying the fantastic as well as the mundane facts of Timoken's incredible life accessibly; new readers will have no difficulty making this an introduction to Nimmo's work (in a prologue, Charlie provides backstory for those unfamiliar with Nimmo's earlier books). Timoken is a highly appealing young hero, and his panoply of human and magical friends provide just the right amount of help without stealing the show. Ages 8%E2%80%9312. (June)