Sometime in the future.
It’s five centuries after the world has been torn apart by nuclear war. England has fared better than other countries because they had disarmed and destroyed all nuclear weapons. They weren’t a target when all hell broke loose. Still, the nuclear war has affected the entire world. People that aren’t mutants are dark-skinned; the sky is brown, not blue; and ice is everywhere. Trees and nature are almost extinct.
Wellington Jones and Heather McKenna are outcasts in their British boarding school. Heather isn’t wanted by her mother and her new stepfather. She’s plain and she hangs out with animals. Wellington (or “Welly”) is fat, nearsighted, and a bit of a nerd. He reads about military campaigns and dreams of becoming a strategist since he can’t become a soldier. The bullies of the school, particularly one named Nigel, pick on them constantly, but Heather and Welly are fast friends and find a way to survive.
On one of their adventures they run into trouble and are saved by Earl, a thin, pale boy who was found years ago speaking a strange language and taken in as a charity case. The children welcome Earl into their circle of friendship and try to find out more about him. Why is he so pale? Who were his people? Where did he come from? Why does he have those screaming nightmares?
One day a couple claiming to be Earl’s aunt and uncle come to claim him, but he feels something wrong about them, something evil, and he escapes. Heather and Welly follow him, determined to protect their newfound friend. A battle with the aunt, who turns out to be Morgan Le Fey of Arthurian legend, brings Earl’s memory back and his friends are shocked to find he is the one and only Merlin, rescued from his forced entombment by Nimue and Morgan by a chance blast to the cave.
Earl/Merlin and the children set off on a quest to find Avalon and Arthur who Merlin thinks will save this world. What follows is an incredible and beautiful tale in grand style. There are battles, magic, fairies, trolls, teen angst, friendship, and loyalty, all great stuff for the target audience of ages 9 to 12.
Tomorrow’s Magic is a timely warning about nuclear war, war in general, and the importance of saving our world from destruction. The grim and icy future that Pamela Service illustrates so well is entirely possible and scarily real.