Order of the Majestic, by Matt Myklusch

Order of the Majestic, by Matt Myklusch (middle grade, Aladdin, May 7 2019), is one to offer kids dreaming of magic, and hoping it will find them one day.

12-year-old Joey Kopecky wasn't one of those kids.  He was content flying under the radar, living an unambitious life of computer gaming in New Jersey, when his life was upended by perfect standardized test scores.  Now he's been offered a place at one of the most exclusive schools in the country, where every kid is a genius.  He feels like a fraud--knowing how to take tests is a skill, certainty , but is it really a hallmark of genius?

But one final test, a strange one involving 150 magic tricks to solve, leads to a 151st trick that transports him to the ghostly shell of a once grand magical theater, the Majestic.  It's fallen into ruins, and to get inside Jack must pass through spooky wraiths, but once he makes it, he finds the magician who once made it famous, the Great Rodondo.  Rodondo was once the leader of the Order of the Majestic, working to keep real magic alive by encouraging his audiences to believe.  Sadly, belief waned, and an enemy order sprang up, wanting the power of magic with no obligation to use it altruistically.

Rodondo sees in Jack the potential for magic, and decides to teach him in one last effort to keep the diminished Order alive.  Two other kids, from offshoots of the order, are invited to join the training as well.  Shazad and Leonora have been brought up with magic, and each thinks they are the one who should be bequeathed the most powerful artifact of the Order, the magic wand once wielded by Houdini.  Jack just wants to learn magic...he doesn't want the responsibility of being head of any order.

But he certainly doesn't want the wand to fall into the hand of the sinister antagonistic Invisible Hand, and he certainly does want to keep himself and the other two kids alive. So he draws on the one talent he can count on to get himself out the clutches of the Invisible Hand--how to solve test questions without actually knowing the right answer...

It's a long book of some 400 pages, but it's a fast read, with humor and  the familiar edge of competition and familiar "kid discovering his powers" story keeping things going briskly.  It's not a book of numinous power and beauty, but it's a perfectly serviceable story.  Jack's solution to the immediate problem is rather lovely, and though there's the set up for more to the story, this installment comes to a satisfying end.

Short answer--not one that moved me in any powerful way, and not remarkably memorable (except for the end, which I did really like!)  but a solid read nonetheless that should please the target audience, especially kids who enjoy doing magic tricks! (a few useful tricks on standardized test taking are gracefully thrown in too, for a bit of added value!)

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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