This exciting and adventurous start to a middle-grade trilogy follows a queer boy and his family as they try to halt the chaotic effects of a mysterious ring, drawing upon Jewish mythology to navigate magic, mayhem and the search for pride in one’s identity.
The little beachside town of San Pancras is not known for anything exciting, but when Zach Darlington buys a mysterious ring at the local flea market, his quiet little hometown is turned topsy-turvy by monsters straight from Jewish folklore and a nefarious secret society focused on upholding an apocalyptic prophecy.
Zach discovers that the ring grants him strange powers, and he’s intrigued; maybe he can use the ring’s strengths to halt the slew of anti-Semitic and homophobic bullying he’s experiencing at school. But soon the ring brings unexpected visitors—Ashmedai, King of Demons, in the guise of a preteen boy named Ash, and the local chapter of the Knights of the Apocalypse, a secret society intent on completing a creepy prophecy that will bring three monsters to Earth to start the events of the end of times.
Now responsible for the ring and its consequences, will Zach and his friends, with the help of Ash, be able to stop the Apocalypse and save the world?
I think I’ve read everything Aden Polydoros has written (I also have an ARC of his next release – woohoo!), and when he decided to play in the middle grade sandbox, I was excited to see what he came up with.
In the author’s note before the story begins, he mentions that he comes from an interfaith family and discovered his love of horror movies at a young age. Other than a few passing references in a popular MG series, he never came across books with Jewish main characters and struggled to see himself in stories. A few of his novels contain queer Jewish main characters, and it’s wonderful to see that representation available to YA and MG readers today.
The book begins with Zach and his younger sister buying a mysterious ring for their mother’s birthday at a flea market. Little does he know the adventure that awaits him because of that simple transaction. First, he can hear animals talk and converse with them – which is pretty cool. Then the King of Demons (who discovers a strong passion for pizza) appears in Zach’s bedroom, and soon he’s in over his head dealing with a nutty kind of cult and three monsters predicted to start the end times.
Knowing little to nothing about Jewish mythology, I enjoyed learning more about it, and it’s one of my favorite things about this book. The author does a wonderful job of portraying tweens – their interactions, the bottomless stomachs of tween boys (which gave me several laughs), and relationships with their parents and siblings. Zach is also the target of bullying by one student in particular in his class, which sadly is still a reality in our schools, and it’s handled well in the story.
Ring of Solomon is full of action with plenty of humor, and several reviewers have recommended it to fans of Percy Jackson. I was delighted to learn this will be a trilogy, and I’m excited to spend more time with these characters.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.