[Book Review] The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet (The Secrets of Droon, #1) by Tony Abbott

A hidden door. A magical staircase. Discover the world of Droon!

Underneath the steps leading down to Eric's basement is a hidden storage space. It's dusty and old--nothing special at all. But when Eric, Julie and Neal all huddle inside the gray room together, something unbelievable happens. A glittering light and then a rainbow-colored staircase appear. And as the kids take their very first step down into the mysterious land of Droon, they know that only magic and adventure await them!

Unlike most of the other children's books and series I've been reviewing recently, I never read The Secrets of Droon as a child; as a matter of fact, I'd never heard of the series until a few years ago. But I'm glad I finally got around to checking it out; if The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet is any indication, it's going to be quite the fun, creative series.

So far, the story seems to revolve around your typical fantasy and kidlit cliches: the boy-girl-boy trio of heroic children, the Faux Action Girl who's really little more than a Damsel in Distress, the good wizard who doesn't actually seem to help much, and the evil Lord Scaryname who commands both powerful magic and hordes of monsters. On the other hand, it offers glimpses of some far more fascinating elements.

For one thing, the world-building is quite interesting. It's the kind of creative that I'm rather inclined to simply call "wacky". One of the characters is a "spider troll"--that is, he's a giant tarantula with a human head--while the gang's transportation is a six-legged bison named Appa six-legged camel named Leep. There's a definite sense of whimsy to the world-building that I like; it's throwing your typical fantasy elements--doors to other realms, flying carpets, invisibility cloaks--in with mix-and-match critters and a setting that isn't just your typical knockoff Medieval Europe.

But by far the most interesting thing about the Droon series so far is that it seems to run on some kind of Law of Equal Exchange. As the wizard explains it, "For every object left [in Droon], a thing from Droon will appear in [the kids'] world." Nothing seems to come of this in The Hidden Stairs and the Magic Carpet, but I'm excited to see what Abbott does with it in later books.

I'm not quite comfortable yet recommending this series to any particular audience--for all I know, it could completely change course over the next few books--but I'll definitely be reading more. It's certainly piqued my interest.

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