I admit it, the cover art pulled me in on this one. While there's something familiar in the slightly-mischievous Harry Potteresque look the protagonist, Aidan Cain, is wearing, it was actually the visible colors pouring through the stained-glass window in the angled ceiling and wrapping around Aidan and the dog that made me grab this book. I can only assume it goes back to my love of all things half-scientific, half-magical: it reminds me of the Northern Lights, which I still have yet to see with my bare eyes.
With the appeal of the cover fresh in my mind, I cracked this book open to see what lay inside. I realized immediately that the inside flap text was slightly misleading: it portrays the central character as Aidan, but the first chapter of the book, and many others, are from the older Andrew's perspective. They are both main characters, and the plot requires both their large contributions to balance out the story.
I liked Andrew from the start. His history and its application to his current position as inheritor of Melstone House were enjoyable to contemplate. Clearly, he was the wizard of the story, in more than one sense, despite Aidan's magical abilities; Andrew, as the adult, was aware from the start of the importance of certain plot details, and grasped the significance of others as the plot progressed. Aidan, an entertaining and powerful character, is generally a boyish boy who plays soccer, meets the giant that eats the unwanted vegetables laid out on the shed roof every night, and rescues the were-dog Rolf from the clutches of Mr. Brown and his mysterious forces.
The book is populated with other highly entertaining characters, as well. Tarquin, the one-legged retired jockey, and his daughter Stashe (short for Eustacia, not Mustache, btw) were my favorites, but Mr. Stock and Mrs. Stock (no relation), the two staff members in Andrew's aging mansion, made a hilarious pair of curmudgeonly caretakers, and their oft-clashing Master Plans for Andrew and the mansion helped drive the plot in excellent ways.
The buildup to the reveal of what "counterparts" were, and why they were a problem, was nicely done. I was quite eager to see what they'd be and how they fit into the world of Andrew and Aidan, and I was not disappointed. The explanation and its subsequent manifestations (as well as explaining prior characters) left me grinning, and the interaction between counterparts became crucial to the plot.
The main thrust of the plot wasn't quite what I expected at the end, and I'm left with the curious feeling that this book will have a sequel. Either that, or the denouement didn't do its job. Most of the book follows the premise that Aidan is half-faerie, a son of Oberon himself. Oberon wants to kill him so he can't take over the faerie throne. Aidan's in possession of a wallet that magically makes money in the exact amount he needs, but Oberon and his minions can trace its magic. This leads to a final confrontation at the Fête, which is resolved, it seems, happily. And then, at the end, Oberon does a one-eighty and proclaims that he's not Aidan's father after all, and claims the boy's an...uncle...of Andrew's instead!
Let's throw some mud on old Jocelyn Brandon and label Aidan's mum a trollop all in one go, shall we, and then we'll leave Andrew on the doorstep with this knowledge at the very end of the book, unsure how to proceed. The end!
Heh. That feels far too much like reality just intruded into this lovely, exciting fantasy world. I can't figure why this was the preferred ending. It might manage to explain Aidan's gifts in that they come now from Jocelyn's bloodline rather than Oberon's. But it honestly feels like someone came in and jotted across the last page of Ms. Jones' manuscript, then submitted it to her publisher without her knowledge. It makes a mockery of the whole book, a case of supremely mistaken identity, and an unnecessary tale in the whole. Such an abrupt ending cannot possibly leave me satisfied. Perhaps that's my fault for not being a child of the British Empire, and not being in the proper target audience. I might be overthinking this, and there could be a cultural issue I'm missing. But personally, I recommend stopping reading on page 290 with the following:
"Oh yes," Aidan said happily. "Everything's all right now."
...and call it a good story.
I'll happily give this 4 of 5 stars, but a logical ending of some sort would have pushed another star on there. Alas.