"Not all quests lead to dragons and treasures and fair maidens," says the irrepressible Welkener, Prester John.
The Welkening by Gregory Spencer is one of those other quests. Instead of dragons, a huge beast absorbs human souls. Instead of fair maidens, a host of zany individuals need help saving their world. Instead of treasure, four stolen tiles will put their world to rights. Instead of a knight in shining armor, the Welkeners receive the aid of a most unheroic foursome of teenagers who call themselves the Commiseration of Misfits. Rejected in their home of Skinner, Oregon, they are fleeing the wrath of the McKenzie Brutes from McKenzie Buttes when they find themselves in Welken.
Len, the loud-mouthed and lion-hearted, leads the Misfits with cynical brashness. His sister, Angie, ethereal, beautiful, with good grades and a good relationship with their parents, should be popular. However, she has the misfortune of seeing spiritual realities that make others think she's insane. Lizbeth, loyal, strong, and stolid, sees none of her own good qualities and beauty, only her weight. Her older brother, Bennu, with his hawklike beak, thick glasses, and love of poetry is the brains of the Misfits.
In trying to escape the McKenzie boys' abuse, they end up running for their lives with the Welkeners, who are convinced they hold the key to Welken's salvation. When the wise Piers sends them back to Skinner to look for clues to the theft of a mysterious scarab and four tiles that can save their world, the Misfits find strange clues in a corny story being written by Len and Angie's mother about a feline detective and his basset hound sidekick, based on Percy, the "ginger cat with the warm green eyes" that strayed into their backyard and stayed.
As the Misfits travel between worlds and story, they find themselves belonging in a way they've yearned for.
Bizarre, beguiling, humorous, poignant, exciting, and, most of all, fun, Welken may be the next Narnia. Spencer, a professor of communication studies at Westmont College in Southern California, has created an engrossing plot, delightful characters, and wonderful description. The ending suggests a sequel is following. And Percy, the "ginger cat with the warm green eyes" is the key to it all. -- Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews
Lizbeth, Bennu, Len and Angie are misfits, and they know it. They are often overlooked and ostracized for being overweight, short, airheaded, or wearing coke-bottle glasses. When bullies inflict a wound to Len's head, the four friends find themselves suddenly thrust into an alternative dimension—the realm of Welken, an idyllic kingdom under attack by Morphane the Soul Swallower. The noble defender Piers urges the four to aid his beleaguered land. But their insecurities hold them back until several mysterious adventures reveal that the weaknesses so disdained in their own world are weapons of great power in Welken. Victory is far from certain, however, as the enemy resorts to shape-shifting and deception, finally storming the Welkeners with an army of slaves. Unless the misfits find the courage to wield their weapons and turn the battle, Welken will fall into the death grip of Morphane.