Pyramid of Souls (Magickeeper, Book Two) by Erica Kirov (Sourcebooks, 2010, middle grade, 208 pages)
Nick has become almost accustomed to his new life as part of a Russian clan of powerful magic users. He doesn't bat an eyelid anymore at his cousin Isabella's tame Siberian tiger, and he's proud to take his place onstage, performing magic with the rest of the family in the Las Vegas hotel where they live. But still, the threat of the Shadowkeepers, the dark magic users led by the evil Rasputin, hangs over his head.
This year, Nick's family are the hosts of a gathering of magic clans from around the world, all vying to out-do each other in feats of fantastical skill; one of these clans is the protector of the Pyramid of Souls, created long ago to hold the spirits of evil magic users. When the Shadowkeepers steal it for their own evil purposes, everything Nick has learned to love is threatened as he finds himself caught in a maelstrom of dark magic. A prophecy has predicted that Nick will be Rasputin's downfall...but how can one boy, who hasn't mastered his magic yet, defeat so powerful a foe?
The first book of the Magickeeper's introduced the reader to Nick's new life--this second book is a stronger, faster, read, as one gets to jump right into the swing of the magic and enjoy the ride (I don't think it necessary to have read the first book in order to enjoy this one). It's great fun to see Nick, the ordinary American pizza-loving, skateboarding boy, caught up in this bizarre household of very traditional Russian magic users--the descriptions of his life in the Las Vegas hotel are very entertaining. And the plot, although not, in essence, deeply original (boy of prophecy meets bad guy) is fleshed out with bright detail. The backstory of the Pyramid of Souls, for example, involves Alexander the Great, Edward Allen Poe, and an elephant who once belonged to P.T. Barnum, and leads to a few plot twists I didn't see coming.
I enjoyed, but wasn't desperately crazy about, the first book in the series (here are my thoughts), but with her second book, unhampered by the need to set things up, Kirov gets to take her story and run with it! The result is an entertaining book-- perhaps for the 10 or 11 year old reader in particular. It's not one I'd necessarily rush to give to my adult acquaintances (not quite enough depth of emotion and characterization for that), but it's intended audience should enjoy it lots.
Other reviews at Books4yourkids, The Children's Book Review, Aurora Reviews, and Carrie's YA Bookshelf.
(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)