When Neal and Julie agree to help Eric straighten up his basement, they never imagine that they're in for more than getting a little dusty. But as the three kids follow a soccer ball into the small room under the basement stairs, the floor suddenly evaporates to reveal a rainbow staircase to another world! Before they have a chance to look around, they are caught in the midst of a battle. Shiny red men riding giant lizards are shooting arrows straight at them. They are saved by Princess Keeah of Droon who tells them the red men are warriors for the evil Lord Sparr. She promises to help them get home if they will carry a message for her.
Thus the trio step their way into Droon for the first time. Eric's exhilaration of finding a world under his house evaporates, however, when strange goons on flying lizards shoot flaming arrows at them. The kids tumble into the forest below, but escape, partly because of help they receive from Keeah, a princess of Droon. She asks Eric to take a message to Galen, a wizard, and dashes off. Eric reunites with Neal and Julie, and together they stumble upon Galen's invisible tower. Though they have found the wizard, more bad news follows when his magic mirror reveals that the evil Lord Sparr has captured Keeah, and taken her to Plud, his evil fortress. The children agree they must help her, and set off to brave the villain and save the day.
This book is brimming with invention and curiosity, certainly, and the story will enchant young readers. Imagine finding a magical world tucked away in your basement! Personally, I found it a bit slow. The fantasy was very typical and felt forced. I think this is one of those cases where the book is more suited for early readers than for adults; children will more easily suspend belief and accept a spider with a human head and a bad guy with purple fins behind his ears than I can. I love fantasy, but good fantasy needs to ground itself. Either the fantasy world has to be so well crafted that I believe it exists, or the realistic setting needs to draw me in first, and show me that these regular people are just as startled by the fantastic developments as I am. This opening book for the Droon series does neither of these things. However, it is a beginning reader chapter book, so the author has limited time to create not one but two worlds. I trust, as the series progresses, that the story will develop both the real setting and the magical Droon setting, and the books will become increasingly believable. In the meantime, I do value the creativity in this book, and the potential it offers. I easily see how a child would be swept away with wonder, and I plan to keep this one around and see how my girls respond when they are older.