MIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE by Jenny Nimmo

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Charlie Bone never thought he had any special powers.   After all, his father never had any special powers, unless you count his incredible talent as a pianist.  He was an embarrassment to the family–at least that’s what Grandma Bone believes.  She doesn’t even seem upset that her son died in a mysterious car accident.  And she has never taken an interest in her grandson.  But when Charlie starts to hear voices coming from photographs, his grandmother and great-aunts take an immediate interest, and ship Charlie off to Bloor’s Academy, a school for gifted children where those students Endowed with magical talents, like Charlie’s, get special attention.

At Bloor’s, Charlie learns that all of the Endowed are descendants of the ancient Red King, and that centuries ago, the children divided into two factions: those who chose to use their powers for good and those who chose the opposite.  It quickly becomes clear that not only are Charlie’s wicked grandmother and great-aunts on the evil side of the spectrum, but Mr. Bloor, his son Manfred, and the mysterious and disheveled patriarch Mr. Bloor are even more so.  After sneaking out of the dormitory one night after curfew, Charlie and several of his friends overhear the Bloors discussing a “lost child.”  Charlie and his friends become determined to find the child and free her from whatever imprisonment in which the Bloors have ensnared her.  Charlie also learns from his friend Gabriel Silk (whose Endowment is to see into the lives of people who have worn a piece of clothing when he touches it) that Charlie’s father may not be dead after all.

There are eight books in the Children of the Red King series.  Potter fans might be disappointed by the somewhat flat characters and the significantly lower levels of humor, action, and suspense.  But I found myself growing more attached to the characters and more invested in the plot as the series went on.  Charlie and his group of friends remind me a lot of Dumbledore’s Army from HP5, working together with their various magical talents to resist the corrupt boarding school authorities and their mean student-henchmen.  Also, some of the magical powers are pretty cool. . . .

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