Midnight For Charlie Bone is the first book in a five-book (thus far) series. Originally it was touted as being only a five-book series, but evidently success has broadened the tale.
The story is that of nine-year-old Charlie Bone, who turns out to be one of the descendants of the Red King, a mysterious personage who had amazing powers. When the Red King’s wife died, he left his kingdom and his ten children. As it happens, five of the children used their powers for good, and five used their powers for selfish reasons. This set up the continuing war that’s been playing out for generations.
Charlie at first discovers that he has a weird power: he can hear people thinking and talking in photographs. He was planning to make a birthday card for his best friend, Benjamin, and ended up with the picture of a man and a baby instead. Listening to the picture, puzzled by this strange ability, he learns that the baby was stolen away and remains lost to this day.
He follows up on the hints provided by the picture to investigate the mystery of the missing little girl. His travels take him to Ingeldew’s Bookshop, where Miss Ingledew is despondent over her missing niece. Charlie knows that the niece must be the same one in the picture he saw.
Miss Ingledew also gives Charlie a robotic dog that her brother-in-law, Mr. Tolly, gave her. There’s also a mysterious silver box (that doesn’t get opened for 200 pages and drives readers absolutely crazy!). It promises more mysteries to come.
Back home, Charlie talks to Benjamin and his dog Runner Bean, then delivers his gifts and his mysterious package. Charlie’s Grandma Bone was a Yewbeam, and her sisters (a truly obnoxious trio of busybodies with incalculable mean streaks) and that heritage marks Charlie. Once they discover Charlie can hear pictures, they decide to send him to Bloor’s Academy. Charlie and his mother have no choice because the aunts are providing for them.
In the academy, the mystery deepens. Charlie runs afoul of Manfred Bloor, who has the power to hypnotize, but he finds a great friend in Fidelio and discovers there are other Endowed children. He also finds out that Endowed children are part of the Red King’s extended family.
Many readers have compared the series to the Harry Potter books. There is a lot to compare (school, creepy adults, magical powers), but there is a lot of difference as well. The Charlie Bone series appears written on a simpler, easier-to-grasp level.
However, there are some jarring instances when the point of view shifts too abruptly, from one sentence to the next without a scene break between. This causes some processing delays as the reader takes a moment to realize that the scene has shifted.
There are some great villains and some charming heroes. Charlie’s Uncle Paton really comes through in the end when the chips are down and Charlie doesn’t know what to do.
I read the book to my eight-year-old over the past week. He, and I, found Midnight For Charlie Bone to be fun, adventurous, and mysterious. It is the kind of book we really go for when we want to relax. However, I found myself reading longer and longer as my son wanted to know more and more of the mystery. So be prepared to hang on to the reading experience for quite some time as you become enthralled with the story.