I have long been a follower of Brian Moloney’s blog “The Freelance Retort,” which is a collection of random thoughts and the occasional creative venture involving the zombies that live across the street from him. Brian has a goofy, almost dorky sense of humor that makes me giggle. So naturally, I was eager to read his first foray into longer fiction, “The Kingdom of Keys.” I wasn’t disappointed, although, aside from a similar sense of humor between the main character, Toby, and Brian himself, it was unlike his blogs at all. This was more a flight of fancy, a boy’s imagination run amok and given control of a universe. It is billed as a “young adult” book, but I’d put it more at the middle school range than for older teens. It’s the kind of book you want your tweenager to read. There are no cuss words and no sex or inappropriate language, although there is (realistically) first crushes and romantic awakening of the characters. The battle scenes are exciting and vivid but gore-free. And plenty to think about. Even though it is appropriate for younger audience, it doesn’t condescend. It requires a bit of quantum thinking to follow. This is a fantasy novel in which imagination and belief in yourself save the day. Only when the lead character trusts his own decision making abilities and does what he knows to be right do things fall into place. The book has shades of The Wizard of Oz; my son’s favorite movie from about 8 or 9 years ago, “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl,” starring none other than a pre-pubescent Taylor Lautner; and, oddly enough, The Little Prince, only with Vincent VanGogh and Thoreau instead of a tippler and a conceited man. Moloney has a good ear for dialogue. The characters speak like people, combining and shortening words the way people do, and saying situationally inappropriate things from time to time. My one major criticism is that the characters are supposed to be 16 years old, but they behave and think more like 13 year olds. So, if you just forget that they are supposed to be going into 11th grade and think of them as rising 8th graders, it all works perfectly well. My minor criticism is that there seems to be a distracting amount of italicized type, but I will forgive Moloney this conceit, because I think it comes from a good place. I get the impression that he is merely recording what he sees and hears in his head. If he hears emphasis on a word, he records it. It is more stage direction than typesetting. My biggest kudo, however, goes to his character naming – the female protagonist is named “Lori.” He even spelled it correctly. To read more of my reviews, click here. To buy the book, click the handy-dandy Amazon link below.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Asked in the First Place” was awarded the Gold Medal for humor in the Foreword INDIES awards in 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here. If you want Lori to help you market your book, click here.