Recommended for ages 10-14
Danny Woo didn’t have the most traditional upbringing. As the child of circus performers in a traveling circus, he learned a great deal from his death-defying parents, until a suspicious fire left him an orphan in the care of his journalist aunt, Laura. When an explosion at Danny’s boarding school closed the school while repairs are made, Laura swept him off to his mother’s homeland, Hong Kong; she’s researching a dangerous triad gang known as the Black Dragon, but Danny feels like she knows more than she’s letting on. After his aunt is kidnapped, Danny and his old circus friend, a dwarf named Major Zamora, are left to save Laura – and themselves – using every trick they learned at the circus.
The Black Dragon is the first book in a new series. Mysterium follows the adventures of Danny Woo, a tween who survived the fire that killed his parents. Brought up in a traveling circus, Danny has some tricks up his sleeve and knows that his remaining family – his aunt Laura and his friend, Zamora – knows more about his parents’ deaths than they’re willing to let on. Previously published outside the US, there are three books in the series (so far); I hope they’ll also be published in the U.S., to give audiences a chance to read the whole series.
I liked what I’ve read so far. There’s a lot of action and intrigue, with some questions posed and just enough answers given to tease readers into getting the next book. Danny is a smart, capable kid who uses the hypnosis and sleight of hand techniques he learned from his dad to aid his own investigation. He tends to go with his gut feelings on things, because he’s good at “reading” people – another talent he picked up from his father. His friend Zamora is a loyal friend who acts as Danny’s partner and protector. We’ve got good exposition, interesting characters with talents not usually explored by tween fic, and multi-ethnic, diverse characters that make this a good choice to add to reading lists. I’d pair this with Simon Nicholson’s Young Houdini middle grade series for a nice display on magic in fiction.