Gr 4-6-Eldearth is a land in need of a new Imperial Wizard. The forces of evil are rapidly encroaching, and the Keeper of the Light is growing too old and weak to hold them off. Princess Arenelle has shown unusual gifts in the magical arts and would dearly love to embark on the quest to identify a new apprentice wizard, but, because she is a girl, the best she can hope for is to study at the Academy of Witchcraft. But Nell is clever as well as talented, and finds an unsuspecting substitute-a poor boy named Owen-to masquerade in her place at the Academy, while she secretly undertakes the journey. Along the way, she learns more than she expects about the trials of the common folk of Eldearth, proving her courage and kind heart several times over. This is a fast-moving and easy-to-read choice for fantasy fans. Witches, wizards, and humans coexist in Eldearth, although the magical folk have a higher status and better standard of living. There are vanishrouds and speaking stars reminiscent of Harry Potter's magical devices, but the general populace lives in a preindustrial culture. Nell is a steadfast and admirable heroine while Owen has depth and interest and becomes more than just a stand-in. Both girls and boys will identify with the engaging protagonists. This is the first book in a forthcoming trilogy, so it isn't too surprising when it ends with Nell only just about to gain permission to become apprentice Wizard. Readers will eagerly await the sequels.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.