The Chronicles of Jack McCool: The Amulet of Athlone by R.E. Devine
R.E. Devine has created an epic story in The Amulet of Athlone, the first book in the Jack McCool series. Be prepared for time travel, legends, an evil king and shape-shifting banshees.
Jack McCool is your normal boy next door who happens to be horrid at art but thinks he is brilliant. He has a worst enemy called Oscar, a reputation for hatching disastrous plans and is constantly bullied because of his odd surname. Everything changes when he discovers a dusty trunk in his family's attic and gets stuck inside:
"It was gradual at first. Just a slight feeling of warmth, a hint of heat as though a beam of sunlight had flitted across his wrist. Jack paid it no attention, intent as he was on trying to heave up the trunk's lid enough to stand up."
Jack is hurled back to the past when he discovers an amulet missing six gems. He finds out he must look for these to break an ancient curse. Once the stones are restored, Jack is expected to defeat the wicked High King Goll who will stop at nothing to get his way. He journeys to Earth's four corners with the help of the legendary Finn McCool, a warrior from long ago. He is also given tips from Brigid, an elderly yet feisty druid. Even though Jack is supported by his new friends, he needs to remember they have weaknesses, too. The whole world depends on Jack, so will he find the first jewel in time?
I enjoy reading books about ordinary boys or girls thrown into extraordinary situations and seeing how they react. This is the perfect example with relatable, average Jack.
When Jack journeys to the past, he finds that he misses his family, even his annoying brother. In fact Tom is so irritating, that he makes Jack rehearse girl roles for the school play. But once thrown back in time to an enchanted land with clans, folklore and magic, Jack would give anything to see Tom and his infuriating parents again. Maybe there is a lesson here to appreciate what you have. Jack is also a great role model for kids who have trouble with bullies or for that matter, psycho teachers.
One of my favourite characters in this story is Miss Medusa. She may only appear at the start, but is very interesting and, as Jack describes her, 'demonic'. I also liked a washerwoman named Beenya. I don't want to give anything away, but I WILL say that she hides a LOT.
This is a pretty non-violent tale with no language issues. Therefore, I recommend it to kids aged eight and over.
I give The Chronicles of Jack McCool: The Amulet of Athlone four bookbolts out of five.
Publisher: Bauer Media
ISBN: 978 1 74245 920 2