Wizards of the Coast is best known as the makers of the enormously popular "Magic: The Gathering" collectible card game, "Dungeons & Dragons" role-playing game, and their related lines of fiction and home to top fantasy authors R.A. Salvatore and Margaret Weis. In 2004, however, Wizards decided to move into the realm of juvenile and teen fiction with the announcement of their Mirrorstone imprint. For the first two series under the Mirrorstone banner, they decided to stick with two subjects that they know very well: Dragonlance and Dungeons & Dragons.
Knights of the Silver Dragon is a Dungeons and Dragons series aimed at readers 8 - 12 years in age. The stories center upon the exploits of three young heroes in the town of Curston. Kellach, is a teenaged apprentice to the town's most powerful wizard, Zendric. Kellach's brother, Driskoll, is an adventurous 12 year old who dreams of becoming a great warrior like his father Torin, the captain of the Curston's town watch. The brothers are joined by their friend Moyra, a young female thief and daughter to one of Curston's most well known thieves, Breddo.
In the first book, "Secret of the Spiritkeeper", Kellach is joined by Driskoll as he goes to Zendric's tower for his daily lesson in the art of wizardry. However when they approach the tower they find the door wide open, highly unusual for Zendric. When they enter, Kellach finds his mentor lying on the floor, apparently dead. The tower has been ransacked and it appears that Zendric was the victim of thieves but Kellach finds that the only item that is missing is a strange, glowing orb that Zendric kept upon his mantle. Soon, the boys father, Torin, shows up with several watchers to investigate and sends the boys home immediately. Kellach believes that the orb has something to do with Zendric's death and believes that he can be restored to life if they find it.
After sneaking into the city prison to speak to Moyra's father, they find out that it was a half-orc street thug who stole the orb. They track him down but find that he has already sold the orb to a group of adventurers who have left town. They are headed to the Dungeons of Doom, whose denizens have troubled the people of Curston for many years and is the reason that people are not permitted to leave their homes after dark. Torin is furious with his boys when he finds out what they've been up to and forbids them to leave the house, but Kellach knows that they are Zendric's only hope, so they sneak out of house to save him. Now the three friends must enter the depths of those dangerous, trap-filled, underground passages, facing terrible creatures in order to find the magical orb that will hopefully restore Zendric to life.
Reading "Secret of the Spiritkeeper" takes me back to the earliest days of when I first played Dungeons & Dragons back in the late 1970's. In fact the adventure that these three companions went on was not unlike many of the early, low-level adventures that thrilled my friends and me when we first discovered the game. The story has that strong feel of playing one of those old modules from the TSR days, with a mysterious town, threatened by monsters, and the always present underground dungeon that was the ultimate goal of players. The book closely follows the spirit and rules of the game as Kellach carries the various components in his robes to cast his spells, and Moyra stealthily uses her thievery skills to pick locks and find traps. It is a fantasy story, but one squarely set in the strong foundation of the Dungeons & Dragons universe.
Author Matt Forbeck and the editors did a wonderful job of capturing the feel of the game in this well-plotted and action-oriented story. The three main characters are all well-developed and have the same motivations and fears that kids reading the story have, making them easy to identify with. The frosting on the cake is gorgeous cover and interior illustrations by Emily Fiegenshuh which have a distinct, although subtle, Japanese Anime influence to them. Again, Kudos to Wizards of the Coast for sticking to what they know kids are interested in today. Each of the books in the series check in right around 180 pages with short chapters that average 6 - 10 pages in length. This is very important as it's much more fulfilling to put a book down for the night at the end of a chapter rather than in the middle. Short chapters make it more motivating to read, especially for younger children.
Kids love fantasy so it's no surprise that so many of the top-selling juvenile and teen books today are fantasy-oriented. They provide a sense of wonder, imagination and adventure. "Secret of the Spiritkeeper" is a wonderful start to what should be a thrilling series of adventures that will not only get kids interested in fantasy, but also the Dungeons & Dragons game as well. Those people at Wizards of the Coast are pretty clever.