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The Lighthouse Land    by Adrian McKinty order for
Lighthouse Land
by Adrian McKinty
Order:  USA  Can
Amulet, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Adrian McKinty, author of thrillers like Hidden River, now turns his hand to YA fiction, with The Lighthouse Land, first in a planned trilogy. And just as he's tough on his thriller protagonists, the author doesn't make it easy for his thirteen-year-old hero, Jamie O'Neill. After having lost his left arm to bone cancer and his father to a new family on the other side of the continent, Jamie has remained mute by choice, living with his mother in a decrepit apartment in Harlem, New York. Though bullied by the landlord's son (he takes a splendid revenge), Jamie has a friend and mentor in wise old Thaddeus.

As the story begins, a lawyer's letter arrives for Jamie's red-headed mother Anna, notifying her of her inheritance of the Lighthouse House and the island on which it stands, Muck or Mugg Island. There's a title too - Jamie is Laird of Muck Island. Of course they go, finding there's a ruined tower next to the house, and a causeway to the mainland that's impassable at high tide. Waiting for the school bus, Jamie makes a new friend of tall, intelligent, black-haired Ramsay (they communicate using the tablet PC that was Thaddeus's parting gift). Ramsay tells Jamie about the Flight of the Earls (including his O'Neill ancestors) and that 'A few disappeared off the face of the earth completely.' The two explore the tower together.

Ninety-six light-years away, we meet four-fingered, pointy-eared Wishaway in 'a similar room, a similar lighthouse'. She's been sent there by her father on 'a fool's errand', with an invasion of her home by a great fleet of Alkhavan iceships imminent. Jamie and Ramsay discover a hidden room at the top of their tower, housing the ancient Salmon of Knowledge. It takes them to Wishaway's world of Altair, where Jamie's arm is whole again and where they decide to help against the invaders. However, though Earth's technology is more advanced, what the two bring with them doesn't go far against the army of barbarians that quickly conquers Aldan, led by Protector Ksar.

A series of exciting adventures follow, involving an iceship journey, a fortuitous (for the good guys) illness and some fast thinking about how to counter it, and the application of Ramsay's historical and scientific knowledge to counter the Alkhavans. Along the way, Jamie finds that he has leadership abilities, and falls hard for Wishaway, despite her differences. Though I found some of Wishaway's motivations awkward, I enjoyed the author's imaginative touches on the alien world and the cliffhanger ending of this first episode, and look forward to what comes next in The Lighthouse War.

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