By Barbara Russell DK Publishing 192 pp., $16.95 Ages 12 and up
This compelling modern-day fantasy is based on actual phenomena of 1811, when tornadoes and earthquakes prevailed, a double-tailed comet marked the sky, squirrels migrated en masse, and the Mississippi River changed direction. But in "The Taker's Stone," it's a 14-year-old boy named Fischer who causes a series of bizarre events when he enters into a conflict between a supernatural girl and an evil being.
Fischer's involvement in this dark struggle begins innocently enough. During a summer stay with his cousin, the two sneak out to spy on vagrants camped near the railroad. That fateful excursion and Fischer's impulsive theft of three stones lead them into an age-old struggle between the Keepers of the Stones and Belial, who wants to possess the stones for their awesome power.
Fischer believes the outlandish story of Thistle, the strange girl who appears the next morning because he recognizes her from his dreams. Her plea for help, together with an earthquake and other signs, convinces Fischer that he must reunite her with her father across the country. Though Fischer anguishes over the disruptions he's caused, in the end, he might not trade what he gained: the beginning of reconciliation with his own father, self-assurance, and an unmatchable friendship.
Prophetic quotes from the Bible begin each chapter, and news reports are dispersed throughout the novel, reminding the reader - and Fischer - of the greater context of his story. Russell weaves an imaginative framework for a modern year of wonders that makes for a truly provocative read.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society