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Book Review

This review was created by the editorial staff at Thriving Family magazine

This fantasy novel by T.A. Barron is published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and is written for kids ages 10 years and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Promi is a young thief with a sweet tooth, living in a magical land called Ellegandia. Located on the northwestern tip of Africa, Ellegandia is surrounded on all sides by impassable cliffs and mountains. Some believe its first residents were chosen by immortals and magically transported there. The land boasts colorful and unique birds, flowers and fruits, which its people believe are a gift from the Great Powers of the spirit realm. Residents feel it is their responsibility to protect their land and its treasures from outsiders. Promi doesn't believe in immortals and all of the myths surrounding Ellegandia. He's concerned with survival and being able to enjoy the finest pastries he can steal. When he's caught and imprisoned for stealing from the evil priest Grukaar, he finds himself in a cell with an old monk named Bonlo, who changes his view.

Bonlo explains that there is a war for power taking place in the spirit world. Narkazan, an evil spirit warrior, means to rule the entire realm. Though the upright spirits, led by Sammelvar, the great spirit of wisdom, and Escholia, the spirit of grace, have challenged Narkazan, his strength is growing. Bonlo warns of the tragedy that will ensue if the human world and spirit world intermingle.

Promi soon learns that Narkazan and the mortal Grukarr are hatching a plan to make that very thing happen. They intend to use a precious crystal called the Starstone, which can magnify whatever magic is around it. They'll do this on the holiday called Ho Byneri, a day when the veil between the spirit and human realms is thinnest. Bonlo believes the Great Forest, which holds Ellegandia's most spectacular wonders, will be destroyed in the process. Grukarr recognizes that the forest holds a particularly great amount of magic, and he intends to harvest that power for his merger with Narkazan.

Promi escapes from Grukarr. As he makes his way through the forest, he meets an old woman named Jaladay and her furry blue creature, Kermi. Jaladay is a Listener, meaning she bears a special kind of magic that allows her to do things such as create storms or read minds. She tells Promi she is the last Listener, and her time is nearly done. She passes her Listener magic to Promi, and she makes Kermi vow to stay at his side. Before she dies, she tells him that all magic comes at a price. Each time he uses it for something great, he must sacrifice something he loves.

Promi, still unsure what he believes about magic, returns to the city and his thievish ways. Grukarr catches him again, along with a young woman named Atlanta. She is from the Great Forest and refused to follow Grukarr and his True Religion. When they escape from Grukarr, Atlanta begs Promi to help her save the Great Forest from the evil priest and his minions. When Promi finally agrees, the two brave the Passage of Death to recover the Starstone from Grukarr. They face death several times and are separated in a swamp. Promi uses his Listener magic to reach Grukaar's lair and retrieve a magical magnetic disc. The disc will help him steal the Starstone, but he learns the stone itself is now in the spirit realm with Narkazan.

Promi jumps from an old bridge into the spirit world, where a flying lion helps him retrieve the Starstone and vanquish Narkazan. Returning to the human world, he sacrifices his own life to save Atlanta from an evil that Grukarr created to destroy the forest. But Promi doesn't die. Jaladay returns to explain to him that he is actually an immortal. She is his sister, and the rest of his family are the good immortals who have been fighting Narkazan for so long. They had to hide him in the human realm as a child when they realized he was to fulfill a prophecy. Although Promi has acted in love by saving Atlanta, which is the ultimate purpose of all magic, he must return to the immortal realm to be with his people. He magically turns Ellegandia into an island, which he names Atlantis after the girl he's grown to love.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

People's favorite blessing for one another is "I bless your eternal qualities." Ho Kranahrum is the only religious holiday celebrated by all people because it is a day of feasting and giving thanks for the food of the land.

Divine monks of the past forbade people to leave Ellegandia, fearing outsiders might discover their land and its riches. The disobedient would face eternal torment from the Great Powers. The Divine Monk of Promi's time keeps a certain kind of berries all to himself. A law says no other mortal has a heart pure enough to taste such divine sweetness.

Promi initially says he doesn't believe in immortals and all of the myths surrounding Ellegandia. He says if you believe in things like that you have to carry them around like a satchel full of rocks. He'd rather carry as little as possible. He later says he only believes in things that are solid enough to touch with his hand. In the end, Promi learns he was the only one who could bring harmony between the mortal and spirit realms, according to a prophecy. He also discovers that Sammelvar, the great spirit of wisdom and Escholia, the spirit of grace, are his parents. His sister is a seer.

The evil Grukarr claims he is a priest of the True Religion. True Religion, he says, honors the immortals who live on high but nowhere else. This angers the forest dwellers, who worship nature spirits as well. He tells Atlanta that True Religion can save her, even if she has strayed from the truth. It is the only path to salvation, he says, the path out of darkness into the light. When the forest dwellers refuse to follow him, he orders them killed and sets the forest on fire. A man in prison tells Promi that True Religion had once been called Faith of All Spirits, but selfish priests had greedily followed their own ambitions and changed it. He tells Promi that he has learned through prayer that the spirit world must be kept completely separate from the human world if free will is to prevail.

Jaladay rails on those who killed the other Listeners. She calls them ignorant because they feared Listeners were witches or goblins. She calls the religious leaders of Promi's village hateful and intolerant. She tells Promi that Listener magic doesn't force anything new upon the world, but simply listens to the underlying truth of the world. It will give him the power to call on whatever sources of magic exist. He simply has to open himself up to the power of the spirits, both in the mortal realm and the spirit world.

The people of Ellegandia put prayer leaves on an old bridge. They believe when the wind blows, the prayers written on each leaf are spoken again and carried to the spirit world.

Various nature spirits are mentioned. The river god, for example, gives Promi and Atlanta gifts that help them survive the swamp.

Authority Roles

Religious leaders, such as Deputy High Priest Grukarr and the Divine Monk, are corrupt and selfish. When Promi's parents learn that Promi is the one who will fulfill a sacred prophecy, they disguise him as a mortal to keep him from danger.


Grukarr often tortures people. For example, he has people's hands or tongues cut off or their eyes gouged out. A rat gnaws on a man's toe in prison, tearing at muscle and skin and causing profuse bleeding. Characters sometimes curse others, wishing them evil or harm.


Atlanta kisses Promi on the lips once.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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