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The Familiars

The Familiars

4.7 236
by Adam Jay Epstein

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When an alley cat named Aldwyn passes himself off as a magical companion to Jack, a wizard in training, Aldwyn and his fellow "familiars," a blue jay and tree frog, must save the kingdom after the queen of Vastia kidnaps Jack and two others.


When an alley cat named Aldwyn passes himself off as a magical companion to Jack, a wizard in training, Aldwyn and his fellow "familiars," a blue jay and tree frog, must save the kingdom after the queen of Vastia kidnaps Jack and two others.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After starving alley cat Aldwyn steals food from a fishmonger once too often, he is chased by a notorious bounty hunter intent on exterminating him. He takes refuge in a pet store that sells animal familiars to local wizards and is purchased by Jack, a young apprentice. Aldwyn likes his cushy new life in Stone Runlet with Jack and two other students, but he struggles to convince his fellow familiars--a blue jay named Skylar and a tree frog named Gilbert--that he's as magical as they are. When a prophecy foretells that three spell-casters from Stone Runlet will save the world, the formerly benevolent Queen Loranella kills the students' mentor and takes the young novices prisoner, leaving it to the familiars to rescue the children. Screenwriters Epstein and Jacobson's children's book debut is a grand adventure with entertaining characters and magic-induced fun, written in an appropriately cinematic style (Sony Pictures Animation has optioned the story). Even adults will appreciate a tale in which street smarts mix with book learning, and resourcefulness and confidence are matched by loyalty and respect. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Aldwyn is an alley cat living in the queendom of Vastia. One day, when running from an angry bounty hunter, he ducks into a shop that sells a vast array of magical animals used as wizard's familiars. There he is chosen by young Jack and taken to live with him while he completes his wizard training. Aldwyn is torn by his desire to tell the truth about his lack of powers and his enjoyment of his new life. But his pleasure is short lived. The queen visits their little camp, killing the wizard tutor and taking Jack, his sister and friend captive, thinking they are the three spellcasters foretold in a prophecy. Aldwyn and the other wizards' familiars, Gilbert (a frog) and Skylar (a bluejay), set off on a quest to rescue their loyals. Together they fight off a seven-headed dragon, brave cave trolls, spyballs and more before rescuing their loyals, as well as the true queen. There are lessons of friendship and honesty learned along the way as Aldwyn's lies catch up with him, though he does discover his powers in the end. There is nothing grand or particularly new in this story; however it is a fun tale of animal fantasy and adventure, perfect for fans of the "Warriors" series or those not quite ready for the depth and darkness of Harry Potter or Redwall. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—This series opener won't disappoint. Escaping from a bounty hunter, a streetwise cat becomes the familiar of a boy magician-in-training. Almost before Aldwyn gets to know his new surroundings, Jack, his sister, and a fellow student are kidnapped and it is up to him; Skylar, a magic-adept bluejay; and Gilbert, a clumsy, red-eyed tree frog, to rescue their "loyals." The consistently suspenseful narrative moves quickly and is full of twists and turns. The characters are genuinely familiar: Aldwyn feels inadequate and works hard to conceal his humble origins; Skylar has secretly studied human magic and can be arrogant about her abilities; bumbling Gilbert thinks mostly about food and fears the father he has disappointed. The history of the queendom of Vastia is smoothly worked into the narrative. This winning combination of action and humor will keep readers turning pages right up to the ending, which successfully concludes this adventure but leaves room for more.—Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD
Kirkus Reviews

The calculated invocation of too many tropes makes for a joyless fantasy debut. Aldwyn may be an orphaned alley cat with a mysterious past, but he has street smarts in abundance, so when young wizard-in-training Jack adopts him as his "familiar," Aldwyn knows he's on to a good thing. To secure his position among the other familiars--Skylar, the know-it-all bluejay, and Gilbert, the goofily genial tree frog--he pretends to possess magic as well. But when the three apprentice wizards are kidnapped by an evil sorceress, Aldwyn's lie puts their already-impossible rescue mission in danger. There isn't a fantasy cliché left out of this tale nor anything particularly clever or original in their use. The familiars might as well have been named Harry, Hermione and Ron, with only the barest nod to nonhuman traits; the magical system is painfully muddled; the plot is driven by random encounters and ridiculous coincidences; the climactic Big Reveal is telegraphed far in advance; the denouement serves only as a blatant advertisement for a sequel. Pass. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Product Details

Perfection Learning Corporation
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Adam Jay Epstein spent his childhood in Great Neck, New York, while Andrew Jacobson grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The two met in a parking garage out in Los Angeles. They have been writing together for film and television ever since. This is their first book.

One day, Adam asked Andrew, "Are you familiar with what a familiar is?" And from that simple question, Vastia was born, a fantastical world filled with the authors' shared love of animals and magic. They wrote every word, sentence, and page together.

Adam Jay Epstein lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Jane; their daughter, Penny; and a black-and-white alley cat who hangs out in their backyard. Andrew Jacobson lives with his wife, Ashley, and their dog, Elvis, four traffic lights away.

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The Familiars (Familiars Series #1) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 236 reviews.
thefantaseer More than 1 year ago
My daughter picked this out when she saw the cover - she enjoys The Warriors and Harry Potter - and we read the book together over the course of several evenings. We absolutely loved it. But to my surprise, my 11 year old son, who isn't much of a reader, "borrowed" the book when we were finished and read it himself in a few nights! I can see why it appealed to both of them - there's lots of humor, great action and adventure, and in this parent's opinion, some excellent lessons as well (friendship, loyalty, believing in oneself). I know this family is eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.
Benz1966 More than 1 year ago
Okay - so I'm not a fan of books where animals speak and the story generally revolves around animals (and no, I never read that Warrior series). I used to love the movies centering around animals as a kid (Hello, Homeward Bound and Beethoven), but outgrew them in my teenage years. Then The Familiars made it's way through the blogosphere.. well, I would say.. burst its way instead of made its way. I'm seeing this book everywhere. My dislike of animal books kept me from outright buying it.. but now that I've read my library's copy I'm thinking I may just have to make the investment. This is the best middle grade book I've read in a while., ranking up there with the Gregor series and the Ranger's Apprentice series (which I love, love, love). The story could have been corny - I mean, we're talking about a cat, a tree frog and a blue jay here - but it worked. And I loved said tree frog. He made the book for me. I'm still cackling with laughter over some of his lines. If you have a middle schooler, definitely get this book for him or her to read. She will devour it, and you will too. Fun, fun story and I can't wait for the next one!
Katie Lazaar More than 1 year ago
The Familiars was a very good book. I read it before I got my NookColor. It's about a stray alley cat who find himself getting chased there and doing magic here. First, he is a sneaky alley cat. Then he finds himself getting chased into a very weird lookig pet shop. Then he gets adoped and soon find himself away from home. He gets new magical friends and soon find their selfs saving their new home. Will just a regular alley cat save his magical home? Read this book to find out...
Donald Campbell More than 1 year ago
heck, I love it and im twelve years old! trust me, this is an EPIC book. and there is a movie coming out!
Mr_Sweeney More than 1 year ago
My school librarian suggested this as a read-aloud for my class of 4th graders, and my kids were hooked from the opening chapter. You know it's a good sign when they beg and plead with you to put off a history or science lesson to keep reading. They hardly ever do that (maybe once, when I read them Percy Jackson). This is a really fun story about the magical animal companions to wizards and witches -- think Hedwig from Harry Potter on an adventure of his own. Here, we follow Aldwyn, an orphan alley cat who gets mistaken as a familiar and has to pretend to have magical powers. He's a great character, scrappy and clever. There's also the comic relief, Gilbert, and the smart know-it-all Skylar (for the girls). I recommend to teachers and parents with reluctant readers, as this is a sure pleaser.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are looking for a magical fable about adventure,freindship, and loyalty, then the familliars is your book. I have read it once and liked it so much it is my new fave book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thought that this was an interesting book and also could not stop reading it! I reccomend this for people who love adventure and animals
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Always hooked me and could never put the book down!
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I’d have to say this is one of the best Middle Grade novels I have ever read so far. Not only does it provide a very interesting and different point of view (this book focuses on familiars, not the magic users), but the book also provides illustrations - which were well done and nice to look at to provide a good visual picture for the story. I absolutely loved the plot. From the start of the book you could already tell this was going to be a book filled with adventure and action. This is definitely a book that you won’t stop reading until you are done. The bits of humor also makes this book a great light read (Gilbert happens to be the great comic relief in this book) for readers of all ages (but mostly geared towards younger readers). I thought it was an interesting and different approach to have the story told through the point of view of the familiars and not the magic casters - which is what is usually seen throughout fantasy books. The magic system is simple and easy to understand but it’s also interesting to see the Familiars themselves also having to cast and deal with magic as well. I loved the characters in this book! Aldwyn of course, is my particular favorite because of his underdog status and he’s a great character overall. The Familiars themselves are great characters and are fun to read. Gilbert is there for the comic relief, and Skylar - she can be annoying, but she’s also quite intelligent and has her uses throughout the book. What stands out is Aldwyn and his clever ways to attempt to pretend he’s a magical familiar, although this does have serious consequences, you’ll find it only gets better as Aldwyn finds his true talent deep within. I am definitely going to get the second book of this series. There’s lot of questions that haven’t been answered and there is so much more to look forward to! It’s really not until the final chapters of the book where the real plot was just about to begin. Yes, you were taken on a journey with three Familiars, but that was just a great big introduction to what looks like a very interesting storyline. This was a wonderful read, geared towards children, yet I think it’s a fun read for adults as well. Filled with lots of action, fun, you’ll find it’s a great read for those that want a light fantasy, with no complicated plot hooks, magic systems, and worlds. It’s a light fast read that will keep you turning the pages, and wanting to look forward to the next book in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super good it is one of my favorite books! If you like harry poter you would like this book!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A cat a bird a frog and one big quest
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book. I know there's a sequel but I couldn't find it in my library. I read it because I love Harry Potter and fantasy. It is definately a book I would reccommend, so if your reading this and haven't read it BUY IT NOW!!!!!!! It's not as good as Harry Potter or the Hunger Games but it's still really good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it i would recommend it!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book for my almost 8 year old son because it was long (voracious reader)and was about animals. He devoured it in two days!! He absolutely loves this book and can't wait for the next one to come. Think I may have read it mself now...
bookwormser More than 1 year ago
I got this book and started reading it when I got home from bookstore. I went to my bedroom and couldn't put it down. My mom had to bring me lunch because I wouldn't come out of my room. I ended up finishing it by dinner. It was so good. I loved Skylar. She's a really really smart blue jay who can cast illusions and knows about tons of stuff. And Gilbert it really funny too. I liked how all the familiars worked together as a team and became friends. I hope there's a second book because I would read it.
Paul_H More than 1 year ago
I saw that this was being made into a movie by a Pixar director and the guy who made Spider-Man so I picked it up. It was a very cool story. Kind of like that movie How to Train Your Dragon but with these three animals who have magic talents. I really liked the cat, Aldwyn. He's just an ordinary alley cat, but he pretends he has telekinesis. There's a lot of action and some really funny parts too. I can't wait to see the movie. I love anything in 3D.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolitely love them, all of them!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So intresting,so different.If you are looking for a heart warming one of a kind for all ages book i sugest 'The Familiars.I was looking for a great book whan i came across this book i thought wow i had tried the 'Warriors'so lets try this,and i didnt get disapointed this is a book that is great for all ages.I recomend 'The Familiars'.You should try it out i think you will LOVE it!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome,great book,funny
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like harry potter or the warrior read this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you like Harry Potter and Warriors you will LOVE this book. This story is a magical adventure that leaves you on the edge of your seat dieing to know what will come next!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GREATEST BOOK EVER! I have never read a book this far! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS BOOK! OMG! GREATSY GREAT GREAT. GET THIS BOOK NOW ! IF YOU'R NOT GETTING THIS BOOK ................................................................................................................................................................................................ YOU NEED TO NOW! GET IT! GET IT! GET IT! GET IT! GET IT NOW!THIS IS THE GREATEST BOOK EVER!JUST GET THIS BOOK! YOU"LL BE WANTING TO GET ALL OF THESE BOOKS!I GIVE THIS BOOK 5 STARS! IF I COULD PUT INFINITY STARS I WOULD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is about a cat that becomes a familar accidentaly. He really dosent have any powers. He goes on an epic journey. That is the best book ever