The Quantum League: Spell Robbers
by Matthew J. Kirby
Series: The Quantum League (Book 1 of 3)
Publication Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
After Ben Warner is recruited to join a “science camp” led by the eccentric quantum physicist Dr. Madeleine Hughes, he quickly realizes it’s no regular science camp. Along with his new friend, Peter, Ben discovers the secret, powerful art of Actuation—the ability to change reality by simply imagining it differently.
When a mysterious group of men invade Dr. Hughes’ laboratory, abducting her and stealing her precious equipment, Ben and Peter are suddenly caught up in a turf war between dangerous actuators desperate for Dr. Hughes’ innovative technology. And as Ben and Peter are pulled into a perilous, hidden world full of impossibilities now made possible, will their combined powers be enough to save Dr. Hughes and vanquish their enemies before it’s too late?
The Quantum League: Spell Robbers is my first experience with Edgar Award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby, and I was not disappointed. While the plot is not super unique at first glance, Kirby executes wonderfully. Readers’ imaginations will be sparked as they watch Ben learn how to “actuate,” or use his thoughts to create things like rain clouds and fireballs. And as Kirby tells the tale, he creates a nice comfortable routine for Ben before bringing a sudden surprise that will bring you to the edge of your seat, and he’ll keep your attention until the conclusion.
There are a couple of things I particularly enjoyed about the book. First, Ben’s character and several others’ are surprisingly well-drawn for a middle-grade action story. In this type of book, it’s common to let the plot do all the talking, but here the larger storyline is shaped by character development. The emotional impact lends more interest. Secondly, there is moral ambiguity. This is not your stock good guys vs. bad guys story. Ben wrestles with deciding whom to trust and it seems no one comes out entirely clean. Finally, Ben is motivated by his love for his mother and his desire to reunite with her, despite the “detachment” that the so-called good guys perform to wipe him from her memory. There is sadness and complexity in Ben’s story (and in the stories of others). And these somber notes inspire the reader to root for him; it’s not just bravery but heart that makes Ben heroic. Beyond caring about his mother, he’s also a compassionate friend.
Though the conclusion sets up the next installment, you won’t feel like you’re dangling from a cliff when you finish. But you will be excited about continuing the story to find out what happens next! I know I am!
4 of 5 hearts. Recommended! With a quick-moving plot, and action and intrigue enough to keep even reluctant readers turning the pages, The Quantum League: Spell Robbers is a sure-fire hit for boys and girls who like heroic adventure. Part superheroes, part spy book, part sci-fi/fantasy, give this to kids who like Artemis Fowl or Spy School.