Like Chronicles of Narnia mixed with Harry Potter only with a multiethnic lead and cast, Hartley's Middle Grade fantasy captures you and holds your interest until you can't put it down. Although he doesn't use the Atlanta setting as richly as it deserves--because events mostly center around a school, a kid's apartment, a mall, and a fictional world--his character building is top notch as well as his inventiveness. The creatures from the world are introduced just enough to make them menacing and distinctive but not really developed in depth, but that's okay, because this story is about kids and a quest to find one's self and fit in and also about loyalty, friendship, love and following one's passions even when the world laughs. The few adult characters also get distinctive personalities and decent development for bit players, although I'd like to know more, still, Darwen, Alex and Rich, the leads, are very well developed along with several friends and the story has a warm heart and strong emotional core that builds with its plot to create a suspense that drives you to crank the pages toward the end just to know what happens. I think readers of all ages would enjoy it but particularly younger readers and fans of the Lewis and Rowling's series mentioned. Highly recommended.