This is a super-gentle fantasy series for younger readers, featuring an alternative world at the core of ours.
One summer, 12-year-old Albert Flynn learns his father isn't just a postal worker in the isolated, desolate town of Herman, Wyoming.
A dog with strange, lantern eyes leads Albert away from the dead letter office, where he's supposed to be working but he's just making tunnels under the piles of dead letters. They barrel into the forest and he finds the portal to The Core, where magic and strange creatures reign supreme, not magma -- that's just a convenient cover to keep nosy scientists out -- and learns his father is a respected Professor.
Albert and two other new recruits dive for a Tile that will grant them special magic, but the Tile Albert's drawn to isn't in the books and it doesn't appear to do anything -- not at first.
Then a strange force threatens New York City, where Albert's mom and half-siblings live, and it's caused by an imbalance in the Core realm of Calderon.
Albert, Birdie and Leroy battle another team of recruits for the right to enter Calderon and right the imbalance. They must prove they have mastered their Tiles -- and that's when Albert learns what his Master Tile can do for him.
They'll face strange creatures, impossible situations and need to come together as a team to right the imbalance and save NYC.
Albert, Birdie and Leroy are called back to the Core over Christmas break, this time when earthquakes and hurricanes hit the coast of California, where Albert's mom and siblings are vacationing.
Again, an imbalance in the Core is causing havoc topside, but this time in the realm of Ponderay.
And unlike last time, when they had time to prepare, the threat escalates much more quickly and hits the training grounds. Two teams -- Hoyt's Argon and Albert's Hydra -- are sent to right the imbalance.
They'll face spinning pillars, flying lightning rays, and amazing sharks to figure out the puzzle that is Ponderay.
And they'll all have to truly come together, putting their magic tiles to the test, to bring balance to the Core.
I won't spoil the ending, but it's pretty obvious who's causing the imbalances and who's the inside-guy, rigging things for the villain and against the trainees.
Enjoy the read!
In this conclusion to the saga, Albert and his Master Tile are called back to the Realms, along with his friends, Team Hydra, this time to right an imbalance when the door to the underground Realm, Belltroll, is opened -- and cracked.
His mom doesn't stop him -- turns out, she buys his ticket to visit his dad, as she's known their secret all along.
This time, however, Albert and his team, Birdie and Leroy, are aware of the traitor in the Core. The traitor is sabotaging the rebuild of the Pit and workers are disappearing, so there's no training this time. They have to go in cold.
There's an election, pitting Team Hydra against Team Argon again. Only this time, just Albert's nemesis, Hoyt, gets added to the mission.
The creatures are fantastic, the world building unique, as we've come to expect. And of course, you learn who is the mastermind of all the disturbances in the various Realms, but I won't spoil the read. It's there, subtly hinted at in the last book.