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Charm overcomes imperfections

Candle Man Book Two: The Society of Dread
Candle Man Book Two: The Society of Dread
By Glenn Dakin

Minotaur: 2010

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This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2010.

The billions of dollars made from the Harry Potter books and movies ensure that there is no shortage of would-be heirs to J.K. Rowling's literary empire.

Among the better entries is the Candle Man series by Glenn Dakin, the first entry of which was published last year. Back for its second volume, the new book ("The Society of Dread") finds young Theo Wickland now free of the control of his late master, Dr. Saint.

Theo is still coming to grips with his unexplained powers, powers that led to his realizing he is the latest in a long line of "Candle Men" – a sort of super hero with the power to project power from their hands, power that can kill the evil monsters living below London.

After having cleared out the tunnels beneath London at the end of the first book, Theo is dismayed to find that new creatures are appearing from below, including the crelp – a sort of collective life form, like ants or bees.

With the help of his remaining allies from The Society of Unrelenting Vigilance, and with a new chief of police at hand, Theo again descends into the bowels of London for another climatic battle.

Dakin has created both a likable, unique hero and a wonderful alternative universe. Heavily tilted toward steam-punk technology, "The Society of Dread" lies somewhere between Harry Potter and Philip Pullman's wonderfully evocative (if unfortunately bigoted) Lyra Silvertongue trilogy.

But while Pullman and Rowling created fully developed worlds that felt complete, Dakin's books are more akin to the Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series in that they feel a bit ... thin. The story seems rushed, tilted toward action. There's little of the extended introspection or dialogue that lends Rowling's and Pullman's books as literary in tone.

Despite that, though, it's shaping up into a charming little series. As mentioned, the premise is original (and likely to appeal to pre-teen and teen-age boys), the setting reeks of romance and adventure, and the characters are easy to like.

This second book the Candle Man series is a fun read, and sets up next year's third entry nicely. But when you're done, you're done - it doesn't stay with you the way Harry Potter does.