Will Wilder didn’t mean to unlock his otherworldly gift, but that is exactly what happens when Will “borrows” a sacred relic believed to have protected the town of Perilous Falls for nearly a century. Even though Will’s intentions are good, the impulsive twelve-year-old unwittingly awakens an ancient evil that endangers all of Perilous Falls.
As boats sink and hideous creatures crawl from the rising waters, it is up to Will to confront a nightmarish enemy and set things right before it is too late. Along with his sweet—if lethal—great-aunt Lucille (the curator of a museum of supernatural artifacts), Will proves that the actions of one twelve-year-old boy can change the world.
In The Relic of Perilous Falls, Will goes into a vast underground chamber and must solve riddles to advance to the next room. Similar to Indiana Jones, Will must avoid traps in order to find the treasure. In this case, Will finds a religious relic that can heal people. However, Will doesn’t complete his task alone. Will’s two friends help him solve the riddles in the first two chambers. When Will finds the relic, he abandons his two friends, leaving them alone to fight demonic creatures that are similar to crocodiles.
The story blends humor, action, and adventure to create a fast-paced middle school novel. While these elements will engage readers, readers unfamiliar with the Bible may be confused by the Biblical references. Not only is a Catholic priest one of the main characters, but the relics are from Biblical times. They contain healing properties because “these relics are the remains of holy lives. Each and every bone or scrap of clothing is a physical connection to someone now in the presence of God.”
Like many middle schoolers, Will can be snarky and is often disobedient. Will’s flaws will make him relatable to readers and lead to some humorous scenes. One negative aspect of the story is Will’s parents, who argue often and disagree on how to punish Will. This negative relationship is balanced out by Will’s siblings, who play a minor, though important role. Also, Will’s elderly aunt shows that an older woman can still be physically strong and contribute to the world.
The story’s fast pace and surprises will keep advanced readers entertained until the very end. However, struggling readers may have a difficult time with the large cast of characters, the complicated plot, and the Biblical references. The Relic of Perilous Falls blends Biblical stories into a modern setting, much like the Percy Jackson series does with Greek mythology. In the end, Will is able to defeat evil with the help of other people. However, the conclusion leaves many questions unanswered, which will have readers reaching for the second installment in the series, The Lost Staff of Wonders. Readers looking for other action-adventure stories similar to The Relic of Perilous Falls will also enjoy the Addison Cooke Series by Jonathan W. Stokes.
- Jacob Wilder confronts a demon, who has taken over a dead man’s body. “As if wielding a weapon, Jacob Wilder raised a small vial filled with clear liquid and splashed it across the front of the Nazi… The officer quaked and grimaced, madly attempting to scrub away the fluid streaking down his face and uniform… Then as if he were a balloon suddenly drained of air, the Nazi crumbled to the ground.”
- Will attempts to ride a donkey. The donkey goes crazy, and “the bouncing donkey sent the table’s edge and the cake flying into Aunt Freda’s jaw. She tumbled backward, her face covered in frosting.” Aunt Freda goes to the hospital because “her blood pressure is spiking, and she has a fractured jaw.”
- When Will was riding the donkey, he accidentally hits a catapult lever and his brother flies out of it. “Leo flew much higher than Will thought possible… Leo smashed shoulder-first into a wooden slat, breaking the top off and flipping into the school yard.” Leo’s arm is broken in two places, and he dislocated his shoulder. The donkey scene is described over three pages.
- Will watches a news story. A passenger explains that a boat was hit by something and “People were fallin’ off the decks. I grabbed hold of one lady and dragged her to shore. She was breathin’ and all, but couldn’t talk or even close her eyes. He was frozen. Couple of others like that too.”
- Will’s father is told that “a couple of swimmers—teenagers—were attacked this afternoon downriver… One of the kids is missing.” The surviving teenager says a crocodile or a gator pulled his friend underwater. Later, Will’s dad finds out that the teenagers were “choked to death. Their mouths and lungs were filled with what Sheriff Stout called ‘river trash.’”
- A pier collapses, and a group of wheelchair-bound kids falls into the water. Two of the campers died.
- While Aunt Lucille and a man are on a boat, creatures scale the back of the boat. “The monster’s claws crushed the brass rails as it pulled itself up. The green beat with the pointy face of a dragon and round fish eyes expelled a guttural hiss.” Lucille “stretched her arms out, placed her index fingers and thumbs together to form a triangle… Then, extending her arms, a fiery ray of red-and-white light shot from the triangle of her digits. The twelve-foot-long beast was thrown backwards over the water and dissolved into a foul gray ash.” Aunt Lucille kills several beasts, and the man was “slamming his crutch into the creature’s sleek skull… the thing lifelessly slumped over the railing.” The fight is described over three pages, and a picture accompanies it.
- The crocodile-like creature, the Fomorii, attacks a priest named Shen. The priest “hurled them to nearby rocks or plunged them into the waters with only a stick and his keen instincts… sensing danger, he raised his bloodstained pole. But before he could fully extend it above his head, Shen was lifted into the air by his left foot… The next thing he knew, he was flying toward the shore. Yowling as he drifted, Shen disappeared around a bend in the river.” The scene is described over three pages.
- Will shows Captain Balor (a demon in disguise) a relic. When Will slips on the river bank, “a gray mass—a tentacle—smacked him hard across the jaw. The relic fell to the ground, as did Will.” After a brief conversation, the demon “held the boy’s lids open, forcing him to take in the full horror of that wicked red gaze. Will’s body went rigid, his eyes blank.” Later, someone puts Elijah’s mantel over Will, which wakes him from his comatose state.
- While stuck under the church, Will’s friends are chased by giant crocodile-like creatures. Trying to get to the two boys, the creature “slithered inside the wide tunnel to the right. Within moments of entering the tunnel, a terrible grinding sound greeted the Bottom Dweller. It clawed at the walls, attempting to back out, but it was too late. The smooth walls pressed in on the creature, smashing its body in the darkness.”
- The demon captures Shen and binds him. “Turning his head, Shen realized that he was attached to a slick, rocky wall. Neon green tentacles bound his wrist and ankles… His feet and hands felt numb, as if they had been stung—or were still being stung.” While he is restrained, he is struck. “After several blows, the old man’s shinbone gave way with a dull snap. Fresh blood pooled on his grey pants.” The scene is described over three pages.
- Will’s friends are trapped under the church and creatures are trying to attack them. In order to help them, Leo “raised the mantel, and struck the oily water with it. A mighty gust of wind pushed the Wilders against the grille… ” The water is pushed to the side and the boys are able to escape. The scenes are described over several chapters.
- Several times throughout the story, Lucille uses her powers to kill a demon. For example, “the demon wheezed. Its seven heads wriggled wildly in anguish as if they were roasting from the inside. Aunt Lucille showed no emotion. She simply stood her ground, projecting the steady laser of light.” The demons turn to ash.
- In an epic, multi-chapter battle, Will and Aunt Lucille fight a demon and his Bottom Dwellers. Aunt Lucille uses her power and “the thing clawed at the walls, trying to steady itself. As it struggled, the seven heads glared at the Fomorrii in front of Aunt Lucille and Will… Aunt Lucille continued to pound the demon with her ray. Like insane dogs, the Bottom Dwellers sprang at Will, their jaws wide and bloodthirsty… One by one the reptilian crawlers were turned to reeking purple ash.”
- During the battle, Will uses the relic to banish the demon. “‘Back, Leviathan!’ Will so wanted to yell. And though he didn’t, the moment he thought it, the Beast flew against the rear wall and slipped into the bubbling black Hell Mouth.” Although the demon is not dead, Perilous Falls is safe from it.
Drugs and Alcohol
- Simon calls his friend a “Muttonhead” once and a moron five times. For example, Simon says, “I guess you’re embarrassed to admit that I saved you from sudden death, moron.”
- One of Will’s friends says, “holy crab butts!”
- Heck is used once.
- When Aunt Lucille sees Will’s boys partly submerged, she says, “Oh, dear Lord!”
- Several times, Will’s family hears strange sounds and finds “sea shells, fish bones, rocks, and dead beetles raining down in zigzag patterns… ” Once, the collection of trash fell onto the house’s roof. Another time, the trash fell in the house, and then “the flickering lights were gently disintegrating into the windows and up the chimney, and there before him was an immaculate den. Not a hint of a bone or a shell or anything out of the ordinary remained.”
- A man is injured in a car crash. While the man was lying on the ground, Will saw “a dozen shadowy arms and hands—claws—reaching, grasping for the injured man… scores of smoky claws rising from the street, inching ever closer to the old man.” The claws disappear when Will screams, “Go away! Go away!” The scene is described over two pages.
- Will is a seer and can see demons.
- One character is a Sensitive and foresees an event’s outcome.
- One character is a Repeller, “that means I can repel major demons when I touch my fingers together.” The Repeller uses “Rebutting illuminance… It’s merely spiritual light that repels evil.”
- One character is a Summoner and “can call down the angels in time of need. The good ones.” The character can also heal people.
- Simon learns that the Brethren can travel by “Saccophagal peregrination.” If they lay in a sarcophagus, it takes them to a predetermined destination.
- The story revolves around a demon, who has seven faces. At one point, “Balor’s head now bobbed upon a lengthy serpent’s neck, wide and reptilian. Gray scales covered his hulking chest. Massive arms and a set of tentacles jutted out from his sides.”
- Will must fight the Fomorii, which are minor demons “under the control of a major demon.”
- A prophecy tells of a time when demons will come and “a young one will come” to unite the Brethren and defeat the demons.
- Will has been seeing shadows. While he was riding a donkey, he saw a shadow that was “black, like a phantom—right next to me. Everything got icy cold.” Will’s Aunt Lucille tells Will that he has a gift that allows him to see spirits. She says, “…Everywhere we go, there are bright, good spirits and dark, malevolent ones.”
- As punishment, Will has to help plant trees at a Catholic church. While he is working, a priest tells him about the relic of St. Thomas. The priest says, “People pray to the saint, and his prayers have great power in heaven. Miracles wait on his intercession. Like a magnifying glass focuses on light, so the relic focuses faith.”
- The priest tells Will about St. Thomas. “The only way he would believe the Savior had risen from the dead was to shove his hand into the Lord’s side and his finger into the nail wounds of Christ.”
- The relic, St. Thomas’ bone, is hidden inside the church. “For centuries people have claimed miracles happen just from touching it: healings, protection, amazing things.”
- Aunt Lucille tells Will that the relics are “sacred touchstones. They’re antennae of faith—magnets that draw belief and devotion from us… These relics are the remains of holy lives. Each and every bone or scrap of clothing is a physical connection to someone now in the presence of God. They have real power!”
- Aunt Lucille tells Will a story from the Bible where a man’s body “touched the bones of the prophet—POW! The man rose from the dead!”
- A museum has the “remains of the prophet Elijah’s mantel, his cloak. History tells us it can control water and fire, and even allow the wearer to hear the voice of God.” Elijah’s Biblical story is told.
- Someone tells the Biblical story of Saul becoming the apostle Paul, including how Paul was beheaded.
- When Elijah’s mantel is put over Will, Will hears a voice that says, “Believe and keep your heart pure and I shall be at your right hand always. Will you heed my words?”
- Elijah’s mantel heals Will’s brother’s broken arm.
- Will uses the relic to heal a priest’s battered legs. “In amazement Shen ogled his bent limbs. The bloodstains dissolved from the gray pants, and his legs straightened. The pain that had afflicted him for hours melted away.”
- When Will shows up, unharmed, his mother “thanked the Almighty.”
- Two men discuss how “Every war ever started—all the problems of the world—was caused by some religious nut.”