Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
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As if life isn’t already complicated when you have to sneak out a magical side door and enter a different century just to get to school each morning. And now Silent has to figure out what happened to her beloved Aunt Generous, the woman who raised her—which would be complicated enough even if the CIA agents in black SUVs weren’t chasing her—but they definitely are!
Silent Lee and the Adventure of the Side Door Key is the first entry in author Alex Hiam’s new Silent Lee series. This is a delightful novel with a spunky, resourceful, strong-willed heroine that I believe fans of Harry Potter (and in particular, Hermione Granger) will enjoy.
We meet Silent Lee in the attic of her Great Aunt Gen’s house, the home where Silent Lee had grown up while her mother traveled the world. But with Great Aunt Gen’s recent and unexpected death, she’d been moved out of her house and her school, the Girls’ Latin Academy of Latin and Alchemy. Readers will delight in the idea that this house is special because if you left through the side door, you would find yourself 100 years in the past.
Her mother’s attention feels less than motherly and things feel amiss. Silent shortly finds herself abandoned for the summer, as the cousins she was living with are gone when her mother drops her off at home. Her Aunt Gen’s birdcage, which was left to her, reveals a message, and Silent must discover what really happened to her Aunt Gen – and protect the side door from mysterious government agents who want the key. Her classmate and neighbor Raahi joins her (uninvited at first) in her adventure.
Silent is an interesting character – more comfortable in the past than the present, a bit bossy, very confident and direct with adults. She is skilled at magical spells (even though she knows she is not supposed to be using them) and outwits the adults around her. Raahi makes an excellent and equally peculiar sidekick. Due to a vision problem, he wears thick glasses, but that doesn’t stop him from reading and accumulating information on all sorts of things – which he tends to overshare, and he is as persistent as his new friend Silent. Both possess above-average intelligence, and possibly below-average people skills.
The story is unique and entertaining, and the plot moves quickly, thanks to short chapters. It’s a fun and quick story, and I think it will play out to be an interesting series. In addition to the magic, this is a story about friendship. When it ended, I was definitely left wanting to read more of her adventures.
I mean that both figuratively and literally – because the book DID feel short. The actual story arc is pretty short, and the plot is wrapped up neatly (almost too much so). Some things felt glossed over (like Silent’s adoption). The first chapter of the next book in the series is included at the end as a taste of what’s to come, so I could understand (to a point) why the author stopped when he did. Still, I really wanted this story to give me a little bit more as the ending felt a bit abrupt.
To that end, the format of the book is a bit confusing. It is a short 130 pages. While the content is completely appropriate for all middle-grade readers, at first glance my 13-year-old’s thought the target audience was much younger. However, when we opened the book, we found a smaller-than-typical font with single-spaced pages (which may be intimidating to the younger reader.)
I am looking forward to reading more about Silent Lee! This is an excellent book for younger readers who might like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson but are intimidated by longer book lengths. I’m giving Silent Lee and the Adventure of the Side Door Key four stars because I thought this was a unique, fun story with quirky characters that I think will appeal to many younger readers.
Interested? You can grab a copy for the avid reader in your life here on Amazon.com.