Anna and Max are dragged by their father to a remote inn in Transylvania where he leaves them in the care of the innkeeper while he works on his research. Despite their bickering while stuck in the backseat of the car (and what siblings don't bicker on a long trip?), the kids do love each other. When Max goes missing in the middle of the night, Anna sets off on a rescue mission with the innkeeper's granddaughter and a strange knife from under the floorboards of the inn.
Luckily, Anna has read a lot of fairy tales and has memorized some of the behaviors to avoid when dealing with creatures from the other realm. Max knows a bit about fantastic creatures, too. He even wonders about the wardrobe in their room at the inn. "Sometimes they have magical worlds inside them," he tells Anna. But she and Isabella must go into a dark forest to find him, not into the wardrobe. Will they be able to reach Max in time to save him from the dark figure that carried him off? And will the odd knife they found be any use against something out of legend?
This story would be a good recommendation for readers who enjoy The Spiderwick Chronicles. It is similar in the way the siblings face off against forces the adults don't seem to notice, as well as using knowledge from books they have read and objects they find. There is humor to lighten the scary atmosphere (but not scary enough to keep you up at night). For instance, Anna and Max tell their father that they believe the innkeeper is a witch. He assures them she is not, but then jokes, "And if she is a witch...just push her into the oven."
Recommended for ages 8 - 12. This is the first in a 5-book series.
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