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By L. R. W. Lee
Age 8 to 12 + 242 pages
“Eleven-year-old Andy Smithson returns to Oomaldee to retrieve the second ingredient needed to break a 500-year-old curse. But Imogenia’s spirit, bent on thwarting Andy to preserve the curse, is now in league with the evil, scheming Abbadon. Things go from bad to worse when a creature Abbadon conjures from the darkest magic steals the Stone of Athanasia, the source of Hercalon V’s immortality, causing the king and his wizard Mermin to fall gravely ill. Andy must now not only locate the second ingredient, but also retrieve the stone. Will he make it in time to save the King?”
“Andy woke himself hollering, “No! No!” He breathes hard, as if he had just finished crawling fifty laps around the track in gym class.”
Eleven-year-old Andy had a huge adventure in the Kingdom of Oomaldee nearly nine months ago and had not heard a word from the medieval kingdom. Then Sir Gawain rides up on Alexander to deliver Andy a letter that had arrived at the castle. The ancient pair also tore up both the front and back yards, which would land Andy in big trouble with his dad. But one cannot expect anything less from two stone statues when they run around your yards, dragging stone bases with them. Soon after Andy returned to Oomaldee and his quest to find the items that would free the medieval kingdom from the curse laid upon it.
The curse has the Kingdom of Oomaldee shrouded under a blanket of fog, and its king, King Hercalon V, doomed to live forever—currently, he is 500-years old. It is all because of a curse from the King’s dead sister Imogenia. In Book 1, Andy began searching for the items needed to break the curse. In book 2, he returns to continue his quest. Only now, Andy must find the second item and the stone stolen by the seven-headed dragon. This stone gives the king immortality. Both he and his wizard, Mermin, are gravely ill without a cure. Only the stone can set the two back to health, if Andy and Alden can find it.
In addition to fighting the evil Abbadon—who will be more prepared this time—Andy faces the vulture men. Many now serve the King at Oomaldee, including Razen, who is now serving as the King’s advisor. Can Razen be trusted or has the king been a fool to trust the vulture? Andy and Alden leave for their dangerous mission. Can they defeat Abbadon again and the 7-headed dragon, bringing home secret item number two and the immortality stone, saving the king and his wizard?
Much happened in book 1, but the author gives the reader enough back story that book 2 could be read as a stand-alone. Even though, I think the reader misses too much when reading this series out of order. Andy Smithson is a series of seven books, which is a lot of interconnected story to remember. Reading out of order would be hazardous to the plot. Plus, the series is about two stories: Andy at Oomaldee and Andy at home.
I like that book 2 begins with Andy at home, showing his parents showering him with attention, attention that Andy never received in the past. Now big sister Madison is the jealous one, but this does not change her attitude toward Andy. On a birthday party-trip for Madison, Andy slips back to Oomaldee. Lucky for him, time nearly stops back at home. Many of the same characters are in book 2, though not all have the same role. Now the nefarious vultures work at the castle. The worst is now the king’s advisor, which is a rather odd move, or the king is keeping his friends close and his enemies closer.
New in book 2 is a kingdom game called Oscray, which involves a large egg, advancing a ball towards it, and stopping your opponent from doing this. Oscray is nothing like the game in Harry Potter, but the same community atmosphere prevails. The team opposing Andy’s team is hell-bent on beating Andy into the ground. This violence is with vividly described, but not overly horrid that middle graders would have nightmares. The other big development is the origin of the curse. Andy learns the cause of the curse, which happens to be his beloved King Hercalon V, whom Andy holds upon a high pedestal. Andy must find a way to accept this information and still love the man he trusts and loves.
Andy Smithson: The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning does have a few blemishes. One involves a bit of backstory. A while ago, the Wizard Merlin—Mermin’s brother—sent the king’s wife into Andy’s world. Merlin was to retrieve the Queen but he never returned. King Hercalon V tells Andy,
“Only he (Merlin) knew how to access our world, and only he could bring her back (to Oomaldee).” The King continues, “I always assumed he (Merlin) dies in the process since he’s never been seen or heard from again.”
If this is true, then how does Mermin send Sir Gawain and Alexander into Andy’s world to deliver a letter to Andy or transport Andy back and forth?
The other question involves the curse of immortality and the stone that keeps the king; and Andy’s suggestion that the king is his grandfather. Rather than more inference, I will let the readers decide for themselves. I will say that Andy Smithson: The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning will be enjoyed by kids 10 and up. That is not to rule out younger kids. Some kids progress faster than others do. Parents need to be the judge. I hope the books return to a level enjoyable by all kids 8 to 10.
For those that like messages or lessons in kid’s stories, there are definite lessons Andy needs to learn. In The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning, the Serenity Prayer comes to mind. Andy is to accept the things he cannot change, and to change the things he can. He learns vengeance is not his to take, but rather he is to offer forgiveness. Andy still has a lot to learn in the books to come. I hope he does not continue aging a year with each book. A sixteen-year-old protagonist is a bit old for middle grade.
With all that said, kids will have trouble putting The Venom of the Serpent’s Cunning down until the last page is read. L. R. W. Lee has constructed a wonderful world full of adventure, daring deeds, and remarkable action tempered with the right dose of humor. This wildly addictive series will entertain middle grade students, who, like I, will anxiously await the release of book three.
Learn more about the Andy Smithson series HERE.
ANDY SMITHSON, #2: THE VENOM OF THE SERPENT’S CUNNING. Text copyright © 2014 by L. R. W Lee.
ALSO BY L. R. W. LEE