The Bottom Line: Recommended for young adults, is a truly fresh superhero story that generates plenty of innovative suspense.
Danville Heights is an idyllic small town. People are friendly, the land is fertile and lush, the homes are charming and the community is quiet. But a nearby forest grove holds secrets that will lead to a high-stakes adventure for a group of local boys.
Having told their parents they’re spending the night at a friend’s house, five high school football players head to the forest grove after winning the regional championship. They intend to spend the night despite the fact that local lore – and their parents’ warnings – make clear that there’s something strange about the place. But a supernatural event – and a visit by a being called The Dark Stranger – change their lives forever.
In a world that is filled with all-too familiar superhero stories, author K.N. Smith has managed to create one that feels fresh. Told in a style that blends contemporary Young Adult sensibility with that of a classic fairy tale, Smith manages to turn the five senses into powers that can be used to combat evil (as a bonus, the boys are also martial arts experts). In this case, evil has come to nearby Sandry Lake, a city that has become largely deserted due to the presence of “goons.” And to defeat the goons and liberate Sandry Lake, they’ll also have to face Druth, a daunting foe to be sure.
Smith’s prose is highly cinematic, filled with robust landscapes and descriptions. The storylines and dialogue are straightforward enough for most young readers to follow, and more sophisticated readers will enjoy pondering the Smith’s often-provocative chapter titles (“Unevely Aged Twins,” “Predestination,” “Police Matters”). What’s more, Smith delivers a satisfying sense of closure that is increasingly rare in a superhero genre that seems addicted to an endless set of cliffhangers. Going by the first installment in The Urban Boys series, readers clearly have a lot to look forward to.