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The Key & the Flame
     

The Key & the Flame

5.0 2
by Claire M. Caterer
 

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In this middle-grade fantasy adventure, a gusty girl unlocks a magical universe—and the danger that lies within.

Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard longs for adventure, some escape from her humdrum life. That is precisely what she gets when she is given an old iron key that unlocks a door—in a tree.

Holly crosses the threshold into a stunning and

Overview


In this middle-grade fantasy adventure, a gusty girl unlocks a magical universe—and the danger that lies within.

Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard longs for adventure, some escape from her humdrum life. That is precisely what she gets when she is given an old iron key that unlocks a door—in a tree.

Holly crosses the threshold into a stunning and magical medieval world, Anglielle. And as she does so, something unlocks within Holly: a primal, powerful magic. Holly is joined on her journey by two tagalongs—her younger brother Ben, and Everett, an English boy who hungers after Holly’s newfound magic and carries a few secrets of his own.When Ben and Everett are sentenced to death by the royals, whose fear of magic has fueled a violent, systemic slaughter of all enchanted creatures, Holly must save them and find a way back home. But will she be able to muster the courage and rise above her ordinary past to become an extraordinary hero?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this earnest first novel, 11-year-old Holly Shepard, her annoying younger brother, and their overprotective parents relocate from the U.S. to a small town in England. A gift from their caretaker awaits Holly when she arrives: an antique key that hums with secret power and, she soon discovers, opens doorways to other worlds. Soon Holly, her brother, and their new friend Everett are transported to Anglielle, a place very much like medieval England, except that it is also home to magicians, centaurs, shapechangers, and other magical creatures. Holly, who sees herself as someone who “wasn’t very good at anything in particular and ‘didn’t apply herself’ and was a little on the scrawny side,” discovers that she is an “Adept” and that her key is a magic wand. The magical beings are being hunted by tyrannical King Reynard, and only Holly can save them. Anglielle and its magic are fairly generic, but Caterer is especially good at creating believable children in all of their human imperfections. The book’s pace is sprightly, and Holly’s adventures are exciting without being too scary. Ages 8–12. Agent: Chris Richman, Upstart Crow Literary (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"In her debut novel, Caterer quickly builds a fantasy that involves time travel and switching identities as Holly,

Ben, and their new friend Everett enter a tree, using Holly’s key, and find themselves identified as enemy

agents by a fantasy analog of thirteenth-century England. Magic creatures, realistic human emotions, and

the children’s very different personalities are well knit into a rich drama that lasts the full summer."

"Caterer is especially good at creating believable children in all of their human imperfections. The book’s pace is sprightly, and Holly’s adventures are exciting without being too scary."

Library Media Connection
Filled with swordfights, spells, and an endearing cast of creatures, Holly’s journey makes for a rousing adventure. Chronicles of Narnia fans will rally around this debut fantasy novel and ask for the forthcoming sequel.
The Bulletin
“A fun-filled read… a solid fantasy in the classic tradition. The multi-threaded narrative offers a variety of young heroes for readers to root for, and it’s jam-packed with memorable secondary characters of the magical sort, like sleek leogryffs, tricky fairies, and a talking cat.”
Kirkus Reviews
Excessive length dilutes this fantasy adventure. Holly lives "on a block of identical houses," in an American town where "[e]veryone bought clothes at the same mall." Woefully bored, she dreams about "lives she d[oes]n't lead." Then her parents pack up the family and take Holly and younger brother Ben to the English village of Hawkesbury, where their rental cottage's mysterious caretaker/landlord gives Holly an iron key. Using the key to open a door in a tree, Holly, Ben and local boy Everett venture into an alternate realm resembling the Hawkesbury countryside but stocked with (way too many) fantasy creatures and dialects. In Anglielle--which is vaguely medieval in the vein of so many fantasy novels--Ben's hand-held video game and asthma inhaler still work, but Holly's key transforms into a magic wand, and there's a hostile king and prince. Caterer's plot has sturdy bones (Ben and Everett are imprisoned in a castle; Holly attempts various rescues), but the likable protagonists' challenges are too easily overcome, and their supposedly huge mistakes oddly inconsequential. These combine with the tale's meandering length to create a watery result. Efforts are too drawn out, indistinct and laden with destiny (Holly "knew the Old Tongues, somehow") to seem quite meaningful. A Sauron-like figure lurks as an overlay for later in the series, never coming into play. Fine enough as fantasy goes--but there are better. (Fantasy. 8-12)
Booklist
"In her debut novel, Caterer quickly builds a fantasy that involves time travel and switching identities as Holly, Ben, and their new friend Everett enter a tree, using Holly’s key, and find themselves identified as enemy agents by a fantasy analog of thirteenth-century England. Magic creatures, realistic human emotions, and the children’s very different personalities are well knit into a rich drama that lasts the full summer."
School Library Journal
Gr 4–7—Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard hungers for adventure, but she's stuck in Middle America. When her mother's law firm sends the family to Oxford, England, Holly rejoices even as her younger brother, Ben, frets about high-speed Internet access. Once the family is settled into their new home, Holly receives a mysterious key and a cryptic riddle from their cottage caretaker. Holly, Ben, and their neighbor Everett enter the woods and use the key to open a doorway to Anglielle, an alternative, magical England. When Ben and Everett become the prisoners of Prince Avery, Holly finds help from the members of a hidden community that wishes to overthrow the current regime and release magic users and creatures from oppression. They claim she is an "Adept," someone who can wield great magic, and she must access her new powers to help free the boys. Meanwhile, Everett's decision to steal another key has repercussions for them all. Caterer presents an intriguing magical world that is unfortunately diminished by conventional plotting and dialogue. Anglielle's denizens are numerous and memorable, and detailed descriptions of the forest and castle enliven the prose, but the inorganic plot elements sometimes seem prescribed. For example, Everett telegraphs, carries out, and rehashes his decision to betray Holly in such an obvious fashion, it may engender eye rolling. Readers of Angie Sage's Magyk (HarperCollins, 2005) or Bruce Coville's Into the Land of the Unicorns (Scholastic, 1994) will want to follow Holly's adventures even if uninspired plotting prevents an intriguing idea from reaching its full potential.—Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CT

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442457416
Publisher:
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication date:
04/02/2013
Pages:
468
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.70(d)
Lexile:
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Key & The Flame


  • Holly Shepard lived on a block of identical houses in the middle of the American Midwest. It might have been mildly interesting if she had lived in the exact middle, but when Holly looked it up, she saw that her suburb was off by a few hundred miles, so it lacked even that distinction. She attended a midsize school in a town that was neither bustling with glittering skyscrapers and dark alleyways nor quaint with eccentric musicians and Main Street bookshops. Everyone bought clothes at the same mall and saw movies at the thirty-theater megaplex and ate dinner at the same reasonably priced family dining establishment. Every June, the town put on a carnival with two inflatable rides and a Ferris wheel. It was the biggest event of the year.

    If you were the sort who longed for more than that—if, for example, you interrupted Ms. Noring and said loud enough for everyone to hear that you didn’t see how this week’s spelling words were ever going to help you in the real world, like if you had to escape from a mountain lion or a shark—you would get a stern look and a tally mark next to your name and you would give up five minutes of recess because Ms. Noring was tired of being second-guessed every single day. You would sit at your desk during the five minutes and study the fake wood grain and wonder if anything in this school was real. You would remember, as Holly did, that the last social studies test you’d taken had earned a C because you didn’t exactly answer the essay question at the end: What was the significance of the Louisiana Purchase? Holly was supposed to write four sentences, but instead she wrote fifteen and had to use the back of the page because she’d wandered off topic and described how Lewis and Clark had fought malaria and rattlesnakes and dysentery, and how their trip was kind of like exploring the Amazon, with lots of wild animals and sometimes unfriendly native people. Ms. Noring wrote at the bottom of the page (she had to squeeze it in): Next time, answer the question. –5 points.

    Thinking about rattlesnakes had led to drawing three small but vicious Chinese dragons in the margins of her test paper. Holly worked very hard on them, creating thick bodies coiled like springs, and curly forked tongues. She spent so much time decorating the dragon’s scales with alternating diamond patterns that she completely forgot to answer three of the test questions. Ms. Noring wrote: Next time, work more on your test and less on your art. –3 points.

    It seemed unfair that this would be the test on which she forgot to write her name and date. Ms. Noring wrote: Next time, follow the proper format for labeling your test. –2 points.

    Ms. Noring’s minuses seemed to follow Holly closer than her shadow. Her classmates looked at her as though they were tallying them in their heads. She was known primarily for what she didn’t do: She didn’t play soccer or softball. She didn’t join Girl Scouts or want a cell phone. She didn’t buy the right blue jeans or listen to the right kind of music. Worse yet, she didn’t care about any of those things. She didn’t even know the names of most of the stores in the mall; she went there to climb rocks at the Monster Rockwall and sit in a corner of the bookstore with a stack of obscure tomes about Celtic kings or arctic explorers. When she wasn’t reading she was outside, alone, wandering in the scraggly copse of trees that ran down the center of the town’s five-acre Park & Wildlife Retreat.

    No matter where she went, she thought about where she wanted to be, which was pretty much anywhere else. She thought of lives she didn’t lead, fantastical lives fraught with danger and magic. Such visions played in her head on an endless loop so that she sometimes forgot just how much she yearned for something—anything—unusual to happen. Holly Shepard, age eleven, her life as dull as the peeling white paint on the back of her split-level house, wished for something extraordinary. And at last her wish—which had just been waiting for the right moment—was granted.

  • Meet the Author


    Claire Caterer is a copyeditor by day and an author by night. She lives in Kansas with her family. The Key & the Flame is her debut novel. Visit her at ClaireCaterer.com.

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    The Key & the Flame 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Well this is just a furely fun book if you love quantum mechanix books like 13th reality. Awesome characters, aweaome plot, awesome EVERYTHING!!! Definately a great read. Easy to understand as well. Put it on your wishlists!!
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