Zephyr Spheres and the Sword of Wonders
by Myles B. Hibbett
Westwood Books Publishing LLC

"’That’s not possible!’ she screamed. ‘She turned into a doll! She’s a real witch! This must go against almost EVERY SINGLE LAW OF SCIENCE AND NATURE!’"

Zephyr Spheres is a 13-year-old girl who lives with her foster parents, the Krumples. Mr. Krumple isn’t too bad; he just works all the time. Mrs. Krumple, however, treats Zephyr like a servant. Mrs. Krumple’s character is much like Cinderella’s stepmother. Also, because of Zephyr’s shabby clothes and poor social status, the children and teachers at school treat her less favorably than the other children. In particular, the rich Trinda Temple never misses an opportunity to put Zephyr down. After a particularly mean insult from Trinda, Zephyr turns her into a doll. Zephyr isn’t sure what she did or how she did it, but the news spreads quickly. Soon, the government comes and offers her foster mother money to allow them to take Zephyr away to learn about her magic. Mrs. Krumple readily agrees. However, before the government men take her away, two dwarves appear and tell Zephyr that she is needed in the realm she was born in, Danus. Not wanting to be sold to the government, Zephyr quickly agrees to go with the dwarves. However, Danus has its own problems. Zephyr finds out that her real father is alive and is King of Crystopia, one of the lands in Danus. To make matters worse, he has been kidnapped by evil forces employing dark magic. Zephyr realizes she needs to find a way to save her father and his kingdom while navigating the pitfalls of the royal court.

Hibbett’s book is clearly written and moves the plot along at a swift pace. The book also relies on some familiar fantasy tropes, and the storyline feels heavily influenced by many favorite children’s books. For example, the world of Danus, and Zephyr’s role in it, conjures up similarities to the Narnia series. Also, the way magic works, the potions they take, and the flying out of the bedroom window to travel to Danus are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Additionally, the fact that Zephyr has magic on an earth full of ordinary humans with no magic creates a similar vibe to the Harry Potter books. Zephyr’s character is a strong-willed girl—complex and likable. There is a nice bit of mystery in the book concerning who among the members of the court is a traitor to the King. The cast of characters is varied and interesting, including dwarves, lizard-like trackers, sorcerers, and witches. The magic sword that can only be wielded by someone of royal blood reminds one of The Sword and the Stone.

Hibbett’s descriptive writing is well-done. He provides the reader with enough detail that it is easy to picture the characters and setting. Also, the most important characters are well-rounded rather than flat and one-dimensional. Occasionally, some of his metaphors don’t seem quite right. For example, at one point, Hibbett writes, “Trinda’s taunts hit her like bullets…” Trinda is on her way to school at this point, and the bullets simile comes across uneasily since school violence is such a relevant topic these days. Overall, though, the pacing is good, and the pages turn quickly. This book should appeal to younger middle-grade readers, especially those who enjoy fantasy or adventure stories.

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