cover image Training Camp (The Wizenard Series #1)

Training Camp (The Wizenard Series #1)

Wesley King, created by Kobe Bryant. Granity Studios, $18.99 (592p) ISBN 978-1-949520-01-9

Five basketball teammates offer accounts of a 10-day training camp in this inspirational yet uneven fantasy. In a near-contemporary land called Dren, the down-on-their-luck West Bottom Badgers catch a break with the arrival of their new coach, the self-styled Professor Rolabi Wizenard, who uses motivational messages and magic to train the players in “the nature of all things.” As team leader Rain, gentle giant Devon, awkward outcast Twig, and brothers Peno and Lab face off against their deepest fears and insecurities and an actual tiger, the players slowly come together as a team and learn that they must fight their greatest battles alone. Working from a concept created by basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, King (A World Below) does an admirable job of capturing the characters’ distinct voices and challenges, but the gimmicky nature of the Rashomon-like story line, which repeats the same events five times, leaves little room for deepening the worldbuilding, supporting cast, and the vague hints at a greater problem looming in the background. The story does manage to capture the joy of sports and the satisfaction of working as a team—the Badgers, a mostly brown-skinned group, undergo internal and external conflicts that result in realistic struggles and strong lessons learned. Ages 10–up [em](Mar.) [/em]