In her new series, “The Forgotten Five: Map of Flames,” Lisa McMann creates an action-filled fantasy with children who have supernatural powers but must survive on their own after the last adult in their group dies. The five children have always lived in a secret hideaway far from civilization as their parents were master criminals who barely escaped with their lives after a heist gone bad. But gradually, the parents have disappeared after returning to civilization, the first few to gather supplies, and then others left to search for the first three adults who disappeared. The last adult, Louis, got sick and died, leaving his daughter a secret message.
The children all have different “talents,” except for one whose supernatural ability has not yet made itself known. Birdie, Louis’ daughter, can communicate with animals. Her brother Brix is able to jump, bounce, and heal himself rapidly. Seven, Birdie’s best friend, is practically invisible as his skin acts as camouflage. Tenner, who is the same age as Seven and Birdie, can swim like a fish, hold his breath for 30 minutes, see in the dark, and hear from a distance. Cabot is slightly younger, and while she’s really intelligent and has an amazing memory, she doesn’t appear to have any special talent — yet.
Before he dies, Louis tells his daughter Birdie that when the time is right she must search for her mother and give her a secret map of where he hid the stash that the group had stolen, but she is reluctant to leave the safety of their hideaway. In fact, all the others except for Tenner refuse to go. Birdie wonders if she can rescue their mother, who must be held prisoner somewhere, because if her mother were free, she would have returned to her children. Some of the other kids are not as lucky; they had parents who ranged from disinterested to abusive. We are privy to how the kids relate to each other, and because the story is told from all points of view, we understand their insecurities and their fears.
Readers will enjoy watching as Birdie and the others encounter modern technology. They’ve never seen a staircase, and Birdie is puzzled when she’s told that bathrooms are gender specific. Why, she wonders, does the woman’s bathroom show a triangle for the bottom half of a woman? Drinking fountains, traffic lights, cars, computers, and cell phones all confound our intrepid adventurers. As luck would have it, they fortuitously run into supporters. While they manage to fulfill the first part of their goal, many questions remain at the end of this first book. Readers will be curious to see how the group will prevail even though they are horribly outnumbered. This is a great new series for adventure lovers and those who enjoy fantasy.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Penguin Young Readers, the publisher, for review purposes.