Reviewed by Grandma Bev for TeensReadToo.com
William Wychwood was born to a magical family, but he doesn't know this until fifth grade, when he and his pet snake, Esme, must go to live with his aunts and his cousin Sophie whom he has never met. They live in Middlegate, a village that is hidden inside Winnipeg, Manitoba, and entered through a magical gate. Wil and Sophie enroll in school at Gruffud's Academy, where the curriculum includes classes that you and I never had in school; numeristics, verbology, and botanicals may have some parallels to modern classes, but they are quite different. One of the favorite games is snapdragon, a battle of wits between shadows.
Wil and Sophie are concerned about the deaths of hundreds of the sacred snakes of Narcisse, and they decide to try to find out what happened to these wonderful creatures. While on a field trip to see the snakes, Wil and Sophie discover a clue and begin a magical journey of exciting adventures.
Wil has a magical medallion that his grandmother had entrusted to him before she died in a suspicious fire, and it may have something to do with the mystery of the snakes. The kids encounter danger with kidnappings, serpents, evil magic, and shadow duals. In this very imaginative fantasy, Bridgman adds a numeristic table of contents, Latin verbiage, and sketchings that bring the magic of snakes and sorcery alive. The characters are exciting and fresh, and the plot is fast-paced and creative.