Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge, 208pp, RL 4
Purchased at Barnes & Noble
Story: Edmund has always known he was different. He draws dragons endlessly, communicates with animals and accidentally sets his big sister's hair on fire. When a boy who looks exactly like him appears, his golem in tow, he discovers that he is a changeling - a faerie left in place of a human child. His identical, human "brother" has arrived from the underworld in search of his family, but the minions of the faerie who killed the king and queen of the fae, Edmund's true parents, come after them in the human world, they find themselves on the run and back in the underworld. There, they face dragons, witches, enchanted statues and rats and more as they try to make sense of their own relationship and stay alive.
Illustrations: Aldridge's illustration style is evocative of Ben Hatke, especially the marvelous Alexis, big sister to Edmund and Childe. The world of the fae is dark, dank and crammed with danger. When the story is playing out in the human world, the pages are edged in white. When the characters travel to the underworld, the borders become black. Besides being helpful, the overall effect is very cool. Aldridge is also skilled at capturing the grandeur of the world of the fae, from epic caverns and bridges and terraced neighborhoods evocative of Florence, Italy. Whick, the golem attendant to Childe is a particularly marvelous character. Made of wax and brought to life when the wick at the top of their head is lit, Whick is referred to in the third person throughout the novel, another wonderful touch.
Why Read? Why Buy?: Faeries are endlessly cool and fascinating! Estranged is an action and magic packed adventure readers will devour. More than that, though, is the theme of family that Aldridge has woven throughout the story. One of the first great surprises is the arrival of Alexis in the underworld, after Edmund angrily set her hair on fire. She forgives him and is prepared to defend him to the end, whoever he is. And, as Edmund struggles to understand his true nature and find his place in the world of the fae, he jealously guards his human family from the invader, their true son, the Childe. Each boy has loyalties and a drive to protect and defend both magical and non-magical folk that they don't fully understand. They are guided through this complex maze of relationships when they come across another human in the world of the fae who chooses to stay. Having found love, Isaac tells the boys that family is, "people who share a common story. You make your own family wherever you are. I have made mine . . . and I hope that whatever creature replaced me above, he has found his." This sentiment about family is echoed again by Nanny, the magical creature who raised Edmund before he was left as a changeling. And, Nanny is the one being who knows Edmund's true name. At the heart of Estranged is a story of love and acceptance that will linger with you long after you finish reading.