The Boy with the Hidden Name, by Skylar Dorset

A few months ago, I read The Girl Who Never Was—the first book in this series—and gave it five stars. I loved Selkie the narrator’s voice as all the irreverence was happening around her, and I loved the use of my hometown of Boston as a safe-haven for magical creatures. The book tied up its primary conflict but kept it open for something bigger to happen in the sequel. Let’s see how well it continues the story.

Like before, let’s look at the beautiful cover first. I love how it’s an inversion of the first book’s cover but with the primary image focusing on Benedict Le Fay—the titular Boy With the Hidden Name. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the book covers of a serial so inventively, awesomely, and easily tied together. Kudos to author Dorset’s cover designer(s) and marketing team.

I try to be spoiler-free in my reviews, but I’m reviewing a sequel, so be prepared that there will be mention of events in the first story.

When we last left Selkie Stewart in Boston, Ben had left her to seek out his mother in the Unseelie Court. Selkie is saddened by the way he left her, especially in light of the prophecy that says: “Benedict Le Fay will betray you, and then he will die.” Has he betrayed her already by leaving? And if so, is he going to die? Selkie loves him, and she’s heartbroken, but before she can even try moving on, very bad things start happening in Boston. The Seelies are going to attack soon.

You see, there are other prophecies at play here. One says that the four faeries of the seasons (of which Selkie is the fae of the autumnal equinox) will defeat the Seelies. Another says that one of those faeries will go to Avalon and guarantee the Seelies’ victory. Regardless of which one plays out, Boston is in trouble so Selkie and her family and friends need to find the other three faeries. The problem is that only Ben’s mother knows the identities and/or whereabouts of the other faeries, and getting into the Unseelie Court isn’t easy.

Led by Will Blaxton the Wizard, Selkie, her best friend Kelsey, and Ben’s cousin Safford start their journey. They travel to the underground city of Goblinopolis and enlist the aid of the flamboyant and seductive Erlking—perhaps the most outrageously fun character in the series. There they venture to the Unseelie Court, where they encounter Ben’s mother. Though not as dementedly wicked as Selkie’s Seelie mother, Mother Le Fay is enigmatic and cunning in her own way. Then they return to Boston where things are awful, so they try to find the other fae, only to take an important detour to Iceland. Along the way, there are tasks to accomplish and important objects to obtain—and some other items that Selkie arbitrarily picks up (her unique ability that I noticed in the first book).

The ever-changing setting with the series of tasks made this book feel like an Otherworldly edition of the TV show The Amazing Race. The book was fast-paced, and with the fate of the worlds—both the Thisworld and the Otherworld—at stake, maybe the quick trips around the worlds work thematically, but I didn’t feel settled in any location long enough to make them very memorable at the end, unlike the fewer locations in the first book.

Also, in the first book, I loved how Selkie was an unaware narrator about the Otherworld and her role in it. Here, she knows a little more, and she’s pivotal in the final battle, but more often than not, other characters are getting her out of situations, thus making her a little passive at times. The other faeries aren’t so much found—a pair of them simply arrive—adding to some of this passive nature of the plot.

Still, the humor and irreverence that I loved about the first book are still here, and it is a very strong sequel. I guess that’s maybe the problem with sequels, especially when you really enjoyed the first part. I’m not saying that this book doesn’t live up to the first part because it’s a very good ride; I’m just saying I thought the first book was exceptionally strong.

In the end, however, I loved the idea that there were conflicting prophecies. Our destinies aren’t fully written and can go a variety of ways based on our actions. That idea resonates with me, and how the conflict is resolved is cleverly tied into that theme. And Ben’s hidden name matches all the fun of this series perfectly. All things considered, this is a solid book, and I won’t keep it hidden that The Boy with the Hidden Name deserves its FOUR STARS.

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The Boy with the Hidden Name is available at Amazon.

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