cover image The Twistrose Key

The Twistrose Key

Tone Almhjell, illus. by Ian Schoenherr. Dial, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3895-9

“Tonight, young Rosenquist... you will find that some games are real.” These portentous words, spoken early in Almhjell’s fantasy debut, launch 11-year-old Lin Rosenquist on a whirlwind, somewhat byzantine hero’s journey. Summoned from her Norwegian home by a mysterious key, Lin lands in Sylver, a wintry afterlife populated by anthropomorphized animals. Among the denizens—most were “once the favorite pet of a human child”—is Lin’s beloved vole, Rufus. Their joyful reunion (“Rufus!... You’re so...” “Handsome?... Eloquent? Alive?”) and affectionate partnership anchor the pair’s quest for Isvan, the missing boy who can restore magic to the land. Idiosyncratic characters—an avuncular hamster-chef; a sinister, condescending mad scientist–owl—help and hinder as Lin and Rufus decipher prophecies, battle trolls, and navigate Almhjell’s meticulously built world. A few dropped threads tangle the plot, and the main villain’s demeanor tends toward Bond-ian cliché, but by book’s end, strong parallels link Lin’s adventure to real-world loss and coming-of-age. Her story feels complete even as the world of Sylver contains enough unexplored territory to invite subsequent volumes. Ages 10–up. Author’s agent: Jane Putch, Eyebait Licensing & Management. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (Oct.)