This is an extraordinarily good adventure/fantasy in the “Harry Potter” mold - well, sort of. Like Harry, Morgan (the main character) is a young boy (twelve years old) who comes from a less than perfect home. Morgan lives in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (a less than stellar neighborhood at the time), his father is in jail, and Morgan is unsure if his working mother wants him around or would rather be rid of the “little nuisance.” He is a sad and lonely boy.
After an argument with his mother, Morgan goes down the fire escape outside his bedroom window and goes to his private “clubhouse” - a basement in an abandoned building - there to sulk and ponder the tribulations of his life. While he is there, an astounding event occurs: a bubble of light appears in the shadows of the basement and, within the light, Morgan sees a battle taking place between two warriors, one of which appears to be of something other than human form. For a moment or two Morgan fears for his life, certain the fighters he sees will enter the basement and, upon seeing him, kill him. But the light disappears, and he finds himself safe again. In minutes he wonders if he daydreamed the event.
Then he finds the necklace the battlers left behind: eleven flat stones, ten with crude drawings cut into them and one blank, connected as though with “knots tied in the air.” Morgan, of course, picks the necklace up and places it on his neck. In so doing, he changes his life forever.
He takes the necklace home and puzzles over the stones. What do they do? Why were those two fighting over them? Soon he learns that the necklace grants the wearer of the stones certain powers. The dragon-stone gives him great strength, the Eye-stone allows him to read minds, the Door-stone allows him to travel to other dimensions, the Wing-stone allows him to fly, and so on. Morgan, in wearing the necklace, is suddenly one of the most powerful beings in the universe.
And one in mortal danger. Others want the necklace and are willing to kill Morgan to obtain it. Suddenly assassins are coming at him from all sides—and what assassins Carraher has conjured up. There are the death-links (almost mindless, gothic-appearing killers with one goal: to kill their target); there is the killer with the claws as large as umbrella ribs who sniffs out his prey like a bloodhound. There are the Eating Cloud, the Golden Ash, the Creeping Specks (think bio-nano-technology) and more.
With the threats against him, Morgan also gains a protector: the Protector of the Necklace named Mag, a “shape changer” and lethal killer in his own right. Mag saves Morgan’s life more than once.
In one of many wonderfully written and imagined scene, there is an attack against Morgan by the animals of the Delecorte clock - the tourist-attraction clock by the New York Central Park zoo that has the cute metal animals striking the hours. As Morgan walks through the park, these animals come to dangerous life and, “expanding in size and in animosity,” come roaring as one at Morgan and the Protector, and the battle is on.
So threatened is Morgan by the series of attacks against him that he determines to give the necklace back to the person it truly belongs to, a girl six-years-old in appearance called the Keeper, who is effectively centuries old. To do so, Morgan and Mag must travel to a place called the “Old Dominion” and there find the Keeper.
In the Old Dominion, they find instead of safety rather more danger and more assassins. They learn, too, that an attack is taking place here; the entire world here is in jeopardy of ceasing to exist.
The most dangerous assassins of all are the pouch carriers, creatures with bodies like mud who carry their life forces in pouches around their necks. There are nine in the pack. When entering battle, one of the nine carries all the pouches to a safe place while the remaining eight do battle. With their life forces at a safe distance from the battle, they are virtually indestructible - they cannot be killed. These are chilling, malevolent killers and, while Mag and Morgan do their best to avoid them, they will eventually have to be fought as well (and are fought, in another wonderfully written scene).
Along the way to his destination and his destiny, Morgan meets Houquin, the giant-sized fighter, and little Gia, a young girl who loses her parents to an assassin (and with whom Morgan is smitten). He and Mag ride the Durawoo (don’t ask), travel back in time to the post-Civil War era in New York City, meet the Moon-man, travel in (and out of) the Dead-land, meet the Weeper, and more great, astounding adventures all the way. There is a grand movie in this novel, perhaps a great video game, too, given that Morgan must solve more than one “puzzle” along the way to his being able to give back the necklace of stones to its rightful owner - or die trying.
This adventure/fantasy is wonderfully original in its imagination and is extremely entertaining throughout. At its conclusion, the book reads “End of Book One.” I can’t wait for the next. I very highly recommend this book.