Bran Hambric has a crummy home life. His foster parents, Sewey and Mabel Wilomas, make Bran sleep in the attic and do chores around the house; they won’t even add his name to their “Wilomas Family” sign.
But Bran is no ordinary orphan. When he was six years old, Sewey mysteriously found him in a locked bank vault. Nobody knows how Bran got there, and Bran has no memories before the vault. Because mages and gnomes are strictly outlawed in the city of Dunce, Bran would never imagine himself part of a magical plot, until he involuntarily performs magic at the Duncelander Fair, and allies and foes suddenly appear from an underground magical network. Bran quickly learns that his dead mother was a mage who created a terrible curse, and only he holds the key to the curse’s completion.
As readers devour Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, the experience may feel like a rolling snowball. The momentum of the plot builds as the pages turn, and we only discover the truth of Bran’s background in the book’s final chapters.
It is impossible to read about Bran Hambric without thinking of a certain lightning bolt-branded wizard who came before him. Both Bran and Harry Potter live with unpleasant foster families and discover their unusual abilities late in life. Bran is not a wannabe Harry Potter, though; rather, his story is a delightfully different take on a magical population.
Younger readers will enjoy this story because of the general silliness of its characters. Most memorable is Sewey Wilomas, a “Schweezer”-driving wacko who refuses to pay his bills. Older readers may take away lessons from the book’s themes: the difficulty of making big choices, the nonsense behind discrimination and the deep thinking involved in navigating right from wrong.
Aspiring young writers will find a role model in Kaleb Nation, the precocious 20-year-old who spent his teenage years writing Bran Hambric (among other pursuits). At kalebnation.com, readers can listen to music composed by this talented author and watch self-produced videos documenting his journey to publishing success.
Eliza Borné writes from Nashville.