Jamie O’Neill and his mother have it rough. Jamie’s lost his arm to bone cancer and since the amputation isn’t speaking. His parents divorced while he was sick and now he and his mother live in a leaky apartment in Harlem. Things couldn’t get much worse for them but somehow Jamie and his mom are making things work.
Jamie has a friend, Thaddeus, an older gentleman with whom he plays chess. Thaddeus seems to understand his need to be silent. He’s also become quite adept at duct-taping the windows to keep the snow out. Then one day a letter changes their lives. Jamie’s mother has inherited a house in Ireland, along with the island it’s on and money to maintain it.
So off they go to Ireland and Thaddeus gifts him with a tablet laptop to help him communicate. Once they get to the coast of Ireland and their new home, they find that there’s also an old tower, a lighthouse on their land and that Jaime is descended from a line of Irish kings. Turns out Jamie gets a title as well, Laid Ui Neill, Lord of the Muck, Guardian of the Passage… yeah, Lord of the Muck. I thought that was hysterical.
Jamie quickly makes friends with Ramsey, a clever and mathematically brilliant boy of his own age. Together they discover a secret room in the tower and an object that takes them hurtling through a portal and into another world where they find an alien girl named Wishaway. Wishaway thinks that Jamie is the Ui Neill come to save her people from the Alkhavans, an evil pirating people who will enslave her race.
The Alkhavans travel the seas on ships made of ice that look like glaciers. It turns out that Jamie’s ancestors had saved her people before. Jamie, mysteriously, in this world has both his voice and his lost arm. Now it is up to him and Ramsay to save the world and its people from destruction.
The Lighthouse Land is an astonishing tale of fantasy, sci-fi and ordinary life for young adults. I fell in love with McKinty’s writing from the very first two paragraphs. I fell in love with his way of writing a sentence. His use of language is gorgeous and lush while starkly simple: “Through the window is the uncoiled arm of the Milky Way and the moon the color of narcissus.”
Isn’t that a great sentence? I can eat it, it’s so delicious! The Lighthouse Land is the first in a planned trilogy and I for one, can’t wait till the next.