I discovered this series when I was around 12 years old (I think? It was a long time ago.) and, when I turned 20, bought every single book in an attempt to put a lock on my childhood nostalgia. I then proceeded to read every single one of them, and now, here we are.
I’ll start off by saying this – this book series is not the best thing I’ve ever read. The final rating will reveal that. That being said, I think it merits some originality. So, here we go!
The series’s main character is Charlie Bone, a Child of the Red King. Who’s the Red King? He’s this guy who lived hundreds of years ago, a magician for all intents and purposes. The Red King had a host of powers, and he also had ten children. Each child had one of his awesome powers, and all their descendants have an awesome power too. So far, so good. It’s kind of like the X-Men in that regard, especially with this next point: the kids, in the late 20th century (this book is based in the late 1990s) all go to this special school in the UK where they can be around each other. The school is, in fact, the King’s old castle converted into a mansion for the Bloor family, and also an academy for Gifted Youngsters.
Jesus Christ, yeah, it really does sound like X-Men here. And Harry Potter. There’s a lot of familiar elements there.
Each kid who’s a definite descendant of the Red King has some awesome power, as I said before. Charlie’s is ‘picture travelling’ – he can enter a photo or a painting and talk to the people inside it, gathering information and maybe even taking artifacts if he needs it. He’s the only picture traveler the series introduces us to, but there are so many other cool powers – Asa is a shape shifter, Emma can fly, Billy can talk to animals, Paton can control electricity, Manfred is a hypnotist, Tancred can control storms. The whole thing is full of characters with weird and wonderful abilities who create a cast of very delightful teenagers. While the book is written for children and can sometimes fall a bit flat if you’re an adult reader, the characters themselves are very interesting to follow. They’re not perfect, and they’re still learning how to sort things out for themselves, but you really do enjoy watching them do just that.
The story develops in a way that I wasn’t expecting, culminating in a giant battle between the Red King’s evil and good descendants. In a true show of morality, the characters fight away what’s left of the evil influences, and triumph happily by the eighth book. However, I did feel like the ending of the series was a bit anticlimactic; the victory went a bit too smoothly, and the whole thing was just a bit too ‘feel good’ for me. This might be coming from the part of me that really enjoyed the Harry Potter series and how it really made me feel for the characters going through the Second Wizardring War. But still.
On a positive note, the characters are lovable, the books are the perfect quick-and-easy read for a boring Christmas vacation, and honestly, (and here I’ll put a SPOILER WARNING) the book when Charlie finally finds his father again after all those years is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever read.
Final rating: 3/5. Keep in mind, these are children’s book. But if anybody wants their kids to read something light and enjoyable, this is definitely it!