Title: Spell Robbers (The Quantum League #1)
Author: Matthew J. Kirby
Pub. Date: January 28, 2014
Genre: Middle Grade
Rec. Age Level: 8-12
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When Ben Warner is being bullied at his new school and a cafeteria table suddenly snaps shut by itself, Ben is plunged into the secret world of actuation, a little known science that combines physics and imagination to perform unbelievable feats. It's always been Ben and his mother against the world, plus it's difficult to make friends when you move around so much. He and his mom are a team; his mom needs him - who else would remind her of the small details that slip her mind, like taking her pills? When Dr. Hughes enters his life, introducing him to actuation, and he finds that he has a natural talent for it, Ben feels that he's finally found something of his own. Things turn deadly, however, when an experimental technology Dr. Hughes has been working on is stolen and the doctor herself is taken captive by a group that hopes to use actuation to achieve their nefarious goals.
Ben and his friend Peter are taken in by another group, The Quantum League, a group that also studies actuation but for good... supposedly. The Quantum League might claim they're the good guys, but Ben feels suspiciously like a captive. He panics when he learns that he's been erased from his mother's memory "for the greater good." The League promises that they'll reverse the process, giving his mother's memories back, if Ben cooperates and helps them retrieve Dr. Hughes' technology. Ben doesn't know who to trust, but he'll do anything to get his mother and his life back.
This first installment of Kirby's new Quantum League trilogy, Spell Robbers, was a solid beginning. From the start, there's plenty of action and intrigue, hooking readers from the first pages. I loved the descriptions of the League's headquarters, full of agents practicing actuation and plotting missions. It had an superhero/comic book vibe that jumped off the page.
Ben's character was refreshing. He's a natural when it comes to actuation and he's drawn to the power and possibilities, but, at the same time, he loves his mom and can't bear to leave her behind. Few of the other characters bat an eye at having to leave their families behind to become an agent, so Ben's refusal and his vow to do whatever it takes to get his life back really stands out.
I'll definitely be reading the next Quantum League books - this one ended in a really interesting place and with many unanswered questions!