Children's Literature - Alexandria LaFaye
Young Jai has been enrolled in a boarding school because his parents have been deported. It's an odd place where the students are so much alike they seem to be almost mechanical. Through a friendship with a few of the remaining individualists, he uncovers the boarding school's dark secrets that involve soul stealing, shape shifting, and multi-dimensional travel. In this fantasy novel that's long on plot and short on literary style, readers can sail through a standard story. Intriguing premise aside, Rubinstein cuts a few too many corners in her effort to convey the plot and the parameters of her fantasy world.
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
As their car pulls before the imposing, yet dilapidated mansion, Jai knows in his heart that life at this boarding school will be far from pleasant and ordinary. A house with a legend, distant teachers, and the sameness of the students spur Jai, Seal, and Hugo to discover the secrets of Nexhoath's headmaster. Add a talking cat, an eerie portrait, a perplexing machine and a time travel conduit between worlds and you have a suspenseful tale of fantasy and friendship.
VOYA - Susan Dunn
Jai immediately senses that something is not right about his new boarding school. The teachers are unfriendly, the other students distant, and the headmaster, Mr. Brake, vaguely threatening. Jai is quickly befriended by two fellow students, Seal and Hugo, who seem to be outsiders themselves. They tell Jai that Mr. Brake is a "drackle" who "devours people," and once Mr. Brake takes a student into his office that student is never the same again. It quickly becomes obvious that strange and fantastical things are going on at Nexhoath. Two of the hired help, Kitty and Roughly, take a special interest in Jai and he discovers that the two are shapechangers (Kitty takes on the shape of a cat, and Roughly a large dog). When Kitty and Roughly see the small bangle Jai has found, they become convinced that Jai is destined for something great and it is their responsibility to protect him. This is followed by the revelation that an old chest in Nexhoath's front hall is a doorway between parallel worlds. Kitty and Roughly have come from the eighth world in search of a lost child destined to be their next ruler. Once they see the bangle Jai holds they know that he is the missing heir. Or is he? The bangle actually belongs to Seal--Jai picked it up when he saw her drop it. Then there's Mr. Drake, who is using knowledge from his world to steal the souls of the children at Nexhoath. Jai and Seal must assist Kitty and Roughly while trying to foil Mr. Drake's plans before it's too late. A mistaken identity, time travel, mystery, fantasy, and an animal story all rolled up into one--this book has something for everyone. Rubinstein doubtless already has many fans and this is another good example of her work. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects, Broad general YA appeal, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8 and Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9).
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-When his foreign-born parents are forced to leave Australia, Jai Kala is packed off to Nexhoath boarding school. His misery over being separated from his family only deepens as he becomes initiated into the ways of this rather strange institution. His two new friends, Hugo and Seal, believe that the headmaster is a drackle who is stealing the souls of the students and faculty. They do their best to rebel, but as things grow ever more sinister, Hugo becomes one of "them." Jai and Seal finally discover Mr. Drake's controlling secret. It is then that Kitty and Roughly, a rather odd pair of domestics, take the children to a parallel existence known as Nexhoath 8, where shape-shifting is the norm and people and animals live in harmony. The pair has mistakenly identified Jai as their long-lost leader, when in reality it is Seal they are looking for. However, before there can be a happily ever after, they must rescue Hugo and that involves a trip into Nexhoath 10. The complicated plot is filled with dimension hopping, morphing, and bad boarding-school food, but Rubinstein does a good job of keeping things moving along. Despite the pace, the characters are clearly developed and the dialogue sounds realistic, if a little foreign to American ears. The use of technology from one dimension as a fantastic element in another is a nice touch, and may leave readers wondering what future people will think of us.-Patricia A. Dollisch, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA
Rubinstein (Foxspell, 1996, etc.) combines shape-shifting aliens with quantum physics in a muddled offering for middle graders. When Jai Kala's parents face deportation, they enroll their 12-year-old son at Nexhoath Boarding School so that he can retain his citizenship and continue his education. Heartbroken from the separation, Jai nevertheless becomes friends with Seal and Hugo, two misfits and schoolmates who explain that Nexhoath was once a happy school, before the installment of Mr. Drake as headmaster. Now everyone acts like a zombie. Mr. Drake, of course, is really an evil presence from an alternative-Earth, pursued by Kitty and Roughly, another pair of aliens with shape-shifting abilities who followed Drake in search of a child from their own world. They believe that Jai is the child they seek, but Seal is the one who must embrace her true identity and destiny. Jai, Seal, and Hugo break Drake's hold over the campus, while returning everyone to their appropriate places (and Jai to his parents). As sympathetically as Jai is drawn, he's not a strong enough character to maintain interest. Rubinstein pushes all the pieces together for a convenient and happy ending, but with some confusion, and without any of her usual wit, excitement, or adventure. (Fiction. 8-12)