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From bending locker doors to battling Darkhands while trapped where the incessant music of “It’s a Small World” plays (that alone is scary to me), to the soul-scarring Shadow Box, The Kindling is a page turner (unless you download it to your e.reader, then be prepared to stay up half the night hidden beneath your blankets).

What I liked about The Kindling:
1. There is great suspense, danger, courage, and adventure perfectly geared to middle-school readers (and their older siblings / parents).

The Stalker stared right at them.
He wore a pizza deliveryman’s clothes, and he held a pizza box, but it was him. . .
“I’ve found you,” he whispered then laughed—
Lexa couldn’t breathe. She felt like she was in a movie and someone had pushed “pause.”

2. I like the clever way Bell chose names that had meaning for groups and actions. For example:

“Why are they called the Twilight Phalanx?” Lexa asked. “Isn’t it kind of dark at twilight? That sounds more like the Darkhands.”
. . .
“Twilight is the moment of the last light before the night comes,” Dr. Timberi continued. “Historically, the Phalanx has often been the only thing standing between civilization and complete Darkness.”

3. I appreciated that the story was principled, such as always honoring a parent’s decisions.

Mr. Stephens stood up. . . “No! NO, No, No! Melanie will not be any part of this!”
. . .
Dr. Timberi stood up straighter. “I regret your decision. Nevertheless, you have made your feelings very clear. We will not persist in training Melanie against your wishes.”

4. Mostly (though this part the average middle-grade reader won’t care about), I loved the lessons that were woven into the story without being preachy. Like the teaching of innocence and ignorance:

“Without knowledge or awareness, you have no responsibility. Awareness and understanding bring responsibility. Essentially, this is the stance of the universe regarding the battle between Light and Dark. Your parents do not know that there is a battle. Consequently, they are not involved, and the universe limits the Dark’s ability to attack them through supernatural means.”

And what the gatekeeper Cherubim teach Conner about the effects of the Shadow Box. (Okay, I’m not giving you this one, you’ll have to read the book.)

5. I appreciated the loyalty between Conner and his sister, Lexa. Throughout the story, “family” takes priority.

What I didn’t like:
Well, since this is not the genre I usually read, I can’t really say, but I suspect most readers will not like having to wait for the sequel. On second thought, I will probably read that one too.

Bell is selling The Kindling for $9.99 (plus s/h) on his website –cheaper than the base cost at Amazon . He is also happy to sign any books purchased this way (use a Paypal account).

You can also join Lexa, Conner, and Melanie on FB.

Read sample chapters here

Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife live with their children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog.