Title: Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows
Author: J. M. Bergen
Released: February 2 2019
Publisher: Elandrian Press
Genre: Fantasy / Middle Grade
Goodreads Rating: 4.87 (of 23 ratings)
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Thomas thinks he’s an ordinary twelve year old, but when a strange little man with gold-flecked eyes gives him an ancient text called The Book of Sorrows, the world he knows is turned upside down. Suddenly he’s faced with a secret family legacy, powers he can hardly begin to understand, and an enemy bent on destroying everything he holds dear. The more he reads and discovers, the deeper the danger to himself and the people he loves. As the race to the final showdown unfolds, Thomas must turn to trusted friends and uncertain allies as he seeks to prevent destruction at an epic scale.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of J.M. Bergen through Book Publicity Services. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows surprised me in many different ways. The first is completely on me—I read “sorrows” and subconsciously convinced myself this middle-grade novel would have a somber tone. Yeah, not exactly. Thomas is almost thirteen. He loves in sunny California, has doodle wars with his best friend Enrique, is crushing on a girl at school, helps his overworked professor mom around the house, and is coming into his magical powers.
Oh. Should I backtrack on that last one? Yes, Thomas stumbles across a old bookstore one day where the owner insists he take home and read something called The Book of Sorrows. Thomas feels an irresistible pull to book, something almost magic, and leaves along with a few instructions from the owner:
- Only read the book when you’re alone
- Don’t tell anyone about the book
- In exchange for the book, come to the bookstore to work for five hours a week
- Only read one chapter each week
The first 200 pages of Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows cover Thomas reading the book, as well as describe his home/school life. Bergen’s writing comes to life with Thomas’ chats with Enrique, his interactions with the school bully, and attempts to befriend a new kid at school. Thomas is a perfect protagonist for middle grade readers, emphasizing the values of friendship, family, and responsibility. For a book geared towards fantasy, I will say *this* part of the book lacks a lot of action. It was much more the day-to-day life of a pre-teen.
The excerpts from the The Book of Sorrows included in Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows were dry (and a bit hard to follow, since they were written in a form of Middle English). I wish they were just summarized. There aren’t many, but the ones included did pull me out of my reading. I also do want to point out, as a reader in her twenties, I still don’t understand the entire history of The Book of Sorrows and its various creators (as was explained to Thomas at one point) so I do think this will be especially confusing to younger readers.
After the 200 page point, the fantasy side of the book truly kicks into gear. Thomas’ magic training was funny and well setup, and the lead in to the final battle at the end was nicely done. Thomas has people to train him in his magic skills, and he learns more about his own past. His mentors are likeable, and establish a trust bond with his mom so it’s not actually a “young child goes missing to train with strange adults” situation. In fact, Thomas’ mom is super looped in to his life, which I adored in this book.
There is a lot of room for this to grow into a series. I look forwards to seeing more from Thomas and his trustworthy bestie, Enrique, not to mention learn more about his past … and what his future holds.
4 crowns. I would recommend for readers aged 12 to 15, particularly those with stronger skills in reading/vocabulary.
You’re in a bookstore and the owner hands you a book and gives you precise rules. You think magic might be involved. Do you take the book home?