Ronan Boyle is the hapless hero of this hilarious new fantasy series that pits special-unit Irish police against nefarious leprechauns.
Ronan Boyle and the Bridge of Riddles by Thomas Lennon, illustrated by John Hendrix. Amulet, 2019, 286 pages.
Reading level: Teen, ages 12-15
Recommended for: 12-15
Ronan Boye, at 15, is considered the perfect size for recruitment to a special unit of Irish Garda (police), especially after he successfully carries out a skinny-guy mission. That is, descend into a pit through an impossibly narrow opening to rescue a baby kidnapped by a disgruntled leprechaun. Leprechauns, in spite of what you may have heard or deduced from St. Patrick’s Day logos, are nasty pieces of work—smelly, pugnacious, deceptive and sometimes a lot of trouble. That’s why a special unit of the Garda–the Tir Na Gog–is trained to deal with them. Ronan’s mission accomplished (in spite of losing his pants), he’s transferred to Tir Na Gog under the direct supervision of Captain Sioban de Valera.
The reason he signed up as a Garda intern in the first place was to clear his parents’ name. Mum and Da, mild-mannered art curators, were framed in an art heist by the mendacious Lord Desmond Dooley. (“Lord” is not a title—that’s his first name.) Now Mum and Da have somehow become involved in rival prison gangs—will Ronan be able to spring them before some bad business goes down? With his parents or with the leprechauns?
That should be enough to communicate the madcap nature of this fantasy (first in a series). The author is better known as a screenwriter and comedian, and it shows—screenwriting demands a keen sense of slam-bang action. The humor is pretty in-your-face, especially when describing faces:
His face looked like a rather bad car crash had happened between a summer squash and a very unhappy billy goat, and this face was the only thing that stumbled out of the burning wreckage.
References to culture may go over some readers’ heads—how many middle-graders are familiar with Dame Judi Dench? Still, Ronan Boyle is a clean-cut hero (and more sane than anyone else in the story), and aside from a few mild vulgarities, it’s a clean, laugh-out-loud read for sophisticated tweeners and young teens. You’ll never see leprechauns the same way again. And, oh yes–the illustrations are by our friend John Hendrix, of The Faithful Spy fame.
Cautions: Language (see previous paragraph)
Overall Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic value: 3.5