First book of the Nightsiders series
By Jonathan Maberry
Available now from Simon & Schuster BFYR
I know Jonathan Maberry's Rot and Ruin series is hugely popular, and I might've read the first book of the Nightsiders series for that alone. But I was truly drawn in by the illustrated cover. I love how detailed it is. The swampy background, Milo throwing a stone, Evangelyne using magic, and the shadow of a menacing claw - all pretty accurate to the book contents. (I cared so much about that sort of thing when I was in the proper age range.)
I do thing THE ORPHAN ARMY starts slow for a book aimed at the middle grade market. There is lots to set up: this Earth is being attack by Bugs and the humans are losing. Even the children are fighting in the war. (This is the justification to make eleven-year-old Milo part of the action, which is likely only believable to younger readers.) Milo has had strange dreams all his life, but his waking days get even weirder when he runs into a wolf and a girl while on patrol. However, it takes almost a hundred pages to get to the real action. The pace is helped along by the short chapters.
THE ORPHAN ARMY combines science fiction (the attacking aliens) with fantasy (the Nightsiders). As Milo finds out, many of the creatures humans tell stories about are real, and they're coming out of hiding to help fight the Bugs. Maberry knows how to create a high-stakes situation. Milo doesn't feel like he's a hero, but his dreams have been preparing him for this. He not only has to fight the Bugs, but also convince the Nightsiders that humans are worth working with and saving.
THE ORPHAN ARMY ends with a few tantalizing hints about what is to come. I'm sure those who enjoy the book will be eager to pick up the second volume in the Nightsiders series. I don't think this one is for me. It's very middle grade, with little crossover interest for adult readers. It is written on a simple level, and I just found the age of the protagonist too unbelievable. I'm getting old. I do have some younger relatives I think will love it. Scifi/fantasy with lots of action and no romance is right up their alley.