Matthew Cody’s books are much beloved by middle grade readers and with good cause. Like his latest trilogy, “The Secrets of the Pied Piper,” all his books feature fabulous characters, thrilling plots, and some really good writing.
In “The Piper’s Apprentice,” the last book in the series, Cody does what is all-too-often missing from last books in a series, he manages to include enough information about what has happened that the reader isn’t lost by reading this book without having just reread the first two books. And if the reader is reading all three books in a row (lucky reader!), he or she will not even notice that bit of extra information that keeps someone who read the second book in the series a year ago from feeling lost.
For much of this story, Max and her brother Carter are separated. Each is trying to save the children of Hamelin and Summer Isle,where they were taken. Summer Isle has turned into Winter Isle and the evil creatures who live there, Granny Yaga and the ogres and the huge rats, are trying to take over. Granny Yaga likes to eat children and the rats cruelly make the children serve as slaves.
The Piper is a conflicted character. In the beginning of the series he appears to be a bad guy — after all, he kidnapped all those children from Hamelin, didn’t he? And now he’s kidnapped Max and Carter to enable his escape from the prison he was stuck in.
But as good writers do, Cody creates a character who is many shades of gray, and the Piper is still partly the hurt boy who was teased and taunted for being the son of a witch, as well as the teacher and mentor to Carter. Carter is thrilled to be learning magic, and most of all he is thrilled that just being on Summer Isle cured his clubfoot, enabling him to be able to walk and run painlessly for the first time in his life.
This series is highly recommended to readers in fourth grade through eighth grade. The plot and the characters are sophisticated and drawn with depth and there is plenty in this series of novels to please even young adult readers.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Alfred A. Knopf, the publisher, for review purposes.