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It will take more than magical candy to win this war!
Something fishy is going on at the new amusement center in Walnut Hills. The trouble seems linked to the mysterious disappearance of Mozag and John Dar, who have spent their lives policing the magical community. When Nate and his friends are asked to help investigate, they discover kids feverishly playing arcade games in an effort to win enough tickets to redeem one of four stamps: jets, tanks, submarines, and racecars.
Rumor has it that the stamps are definitely worth it. But what do they do?
The kids soon discover that the owner of Arcadeland is recruiting members for four different clubs. When each club is filled, he will begin his quest to retrieve a magical talisman of almost unimaginable power. With John Dart and Mozag sidelined, will Nate, Summer, Trevor, Pigeon, and their new friend Lindy, find a way to save the day? Find out in this sweetest adventure ever!
To view Brandon's current touring schedule visit BrandonMull.com
- Size: 5 x 7½
- Pages: 416
- Released: 10/2012
- Book on CD: Unabridged
- Number of discs: 9
- Run Time: Approx. 10.75 hrs.
- Read by: R.C. Bray
About the Author
Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fablehaven and Beyonders series, travels the country visiting schools, promoting literacy, and sharing his message that “Imagination Can Take You Places.” Brandon has enjoyed arcade games since his childhood, when he fed quarters to Gauntlet at the local mall. Around that same time he won a gold medal at a pudding-eating contest in the park behind his grandma’s house. His long-standing love affair with sweets continues to this day.
Late One Night
Roman lay still in the darkness, his covers up to his neck. The hall light had gone out five minutes ago. He heard no murmurs of conversation. Only the whir of the air conditioner interrupted the silence.
He could probably get started, but it would be safer to wait a few more minutes. In the dark, with nothing to do, waiting was hard. Seconds passed like minutes, and minutes dragged like hours. Roman kept losing the staring contest with the digital numbers of his clock as he willed the time to advance.
Bored or not, he chose to wait. If his parents caught him breaking curfew, he would get grounded for even longer. He had almost survived the week. He had not left the house except with family, and he had gone to bed by ten o’clock every night. Once in bed, he was not allowed to have his light on, which meant no reading comics and no drawing.
Ten o’clock might not sound early to some people, but it was summer vacation, and even during the school year, Roman usually stayed up until at least midnight. In the summer he was often awake until well after that.
Now that the end of his punishment was near, it would be tragic to get caught breaking the rules. So far, each night after going to bed, once the house became still, he had clicked on a flashlight under his blankets. Twice he had heard footsteps in the hall as his mother or father came to check on him, and both times he had switched off the light well before his door had inched open.
The air conditioner stopped blowing cool air through the vent high on the wall. The house was quiet. It was probably safe. If he heard somebody coming, he would just be quick.
Roman clicked on his flashlight. Made of shiny metal, it was long and heavy, with a strong bulb. The bright beam provided more than enough light for reading comic books. He had checked how much of that light escaped when he kept the powerful flashlight under the covers. From outside his room, a person practically had to lie down and stare under the door to see any sign of it.
Roman retrieved his drawing pad and colored pencils from under his bed. He had no new comics, and he was feeling in a creative mood. He flipped past pictures of battleships, dinosaurs, superheroes, and burning buildings. The current image in progress involved three skaters diving out of the way as a monster truck crashed through a brick wall. It was more than halfway done.
He was trying to decide what insignia to put on the most prominent skateboard when he heard distinct tapping at his window. Roman reflexively switched off his flashlight and laid his head down, hiding the drawing pad beneath his chest. He held his breath. The gentle tapping repeated insistently. As the fear of discovery faded, Roman began to wonder who was at his window. Since his bedroom was on the second floor, this was especially strange.
Roman peeked out from under his covers. The glow of streetlights backlit the figure outside his window enough to confirm that it was a person. There was no way one of his parents was out there on the narrow apron of roof. It had to be one of his friends.
None of his friends had ever visited him like this. What if it was a burglar or somebody shady? But would robbers tap persistently to announce their presence? The figure at the window waved and gently tapped again.
Otherwise the house remained quiet. Roman crawled out of bed, crossed to the window, and clicked on his flashlight. The bright beam revealed Marisa, squinting and holding up a hand to shield her eyes.
He switched off the light. What was Marisa doing on his roof? She knew he was grounded. This could get him busted for life!
He unlocked the window and slid it up, grateful that he was in a T-shirt and shorts. When he was feeling hot, Roman sometimes stripped down to his underwear to sleep.
“Hey, Rome,” Marisa whispered, carefully crouching through the window.
“Hi, Risa,” Roman whispered back, glancing nervously at his door. He heard no hint of his parents stirring. “How’d you get on my roof?”
“I have my ways,” she said with a mysterious smile. “You’re almost done being grounded, right?”
“Unless my parents catch you here,” Roman said.
“I won’t stay long,” she promised. “I just wanted to show you something.” She held out her hand. The back was stamped with a blue fighter jet.
“You got it,” Roman said, impressed.
“Chris helped me,” Marisa replied. “Rome, he was right. It’s better than you could guess. Way better. It’s like a passport into the coolest club ever.”
“I know that much,” Roman said. “What kind of club? He would never tell us.”
She shook her head. “I can’t. I promised. You’ll understand when you get yours.”
Roman huffed darkly. “Right. Risa, I’m done. That’s how I got busted in the first place. My parents would destroy me if I went back to that arcade. Besides, I already blew all my money. It wasn’t enough.”
“You have to go back,” Risa insisted. “Chris and I will put up the money.”
“The jet stamp comes with perks. I’ve got some spare money now. You’re part of the way there, Rome. Only two jets are left. You have to finish what you started.”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“Other people are catching on. Those two jets won’t stay available forever. You need to win one.”
Roman shook his head. “Whether or not I use my own money, I’m not supposed to go to Arcadeland again.”
“That’s why I came,” Marisa said. “I knew you’d think twice before coming back. I get that you’re not supposed to, but you have to do it. Trust me. It’s worth the risk.”
Roman heard the floor creak out in the hall. Chills raced through him. Marisa shot him a worried look. “Go,” he whispered urgently.
“Come to the arcade Saturday morning,” she whispered back, lunging toward the window. “Use any excuse. Just come.”
Marisa dove out the window as the handle of his bedroom door turned softly. Facing the door, Roman winced. There was no time to get back in bed. Not that it would matter. The crash of Marisa slamming onto the roof would give them away.
Except he heard no crash. Not even a creak. Switching off his flashlight, Roman rolled it across the carpeted floor toward his dresser. The door eased open. His dad peeked in. Roman didn’t move, like a wild animal trying to blend with its surroundings. The dark offered some cover, but light from the hall spilled across his empty bed. After a brief pause, the door opened wider.
“Roman?” Dad asked.
“I’m here,” Roman said weakly.
His dad stepped into the room, admitting more light as the door opened all the way. “Why’s your window open?”
“I was hot,” Roman invented desperately, trying to act calm. Although it seemed physically impossible, somehow Marisa had still made no noise. “I was bored.”
His dad crossed to the window and looked out. Roman’s stomach clenched with worry. How would his dad react when he saw Marisa out there?
But his dad turned away from the window as if he had seen nothing. “You weren’t thinking of climbing out there?”
“What? No way! I’m grounded. Besides, there’s no way down.” There really wasn’t. Not without a ladder. Had Marisa brought a ladder?
“Climbing onto roofs in the dark is a good way to break your neck.”
“I know. I was just stir-crazy. I wanted some air.”
His dad nodded. “All right. I guess I can understand that. You’re supposed to be in bed, you know, but at least your light was off.”
“I wasn’t reading or anything,” Roman said. “Just restless.”
“I get why you’re restless. I’m sure this has felt like a long week. Still, a punishment is no good unless it gets enforced. Hang in there.”
“I will,” Roman said. He walked over to shut the window. Glancing out as casually as possible, he caught no glimpse of Marisa. After closing the window, Roman returned to his bed.
Roman’s dad walked to the door. “Get some sleep.”
“I will. Good night.”
The door closed, leaving the room dark aside from the soft light coming from the face of Roman’s digital clock and the diffused light seeping through the window. Roman waited quietly, letting the minutes pass.
How had Marisa escaped? How had she done it so quietly? He could only imagine that she had dived off the roof. Which meant that Marisa might currently be sprawled on his driveway with a broken neck.
If she had been willing to climb to his window in the middle of the night, the jet club must really be cool. Chris had insisted that earning the stamp was worth it, and apparently Risa agreed. Roman gripped his covers tightly. Risa had even offered to give him money so he could keep earning tickets.
So far Roman had spent all of his personal savings earning prize tickets—more than four hundred dollars. The money had come from the little safe on his dresser, the one with the words PRIVATE FUND printed across the back. The money belonged to him, but, except for minor purchases, he was only supposed to spend it with permission. For more than a week before he was grounded, Roman had turned twenties into tokens until he had nothing left. When his parents had caught him, Arcadeland had been forbidden, and his week as an inmate had begun.
Could he really go back there? Chris had promised that the jet stamp would change his life, and Risa was backing him up.
The house remained quiet. After retrieving his flashlight, Roman crept to the window and opened it. He stepped out onto the roof, the shingles creaking noisily. Again he wondered how Marisa had stayed so silent.
Clicking on the flashlight, he scanned the empty driveway, finding no paralyzed bodies. “Marisa?” he whispered loudly. “Risa? You out there?”
There came no reply.
Roman climbed back into his room, stashed the flashlight, put his drawing pad and pencils away, and then returned to bed. With his mind so full of worries and questions, there was no longer any need to draw.
He had blown his savings at an arcade. No huge deal, right? He was only a kid. There would be plenty of time to earn more.
Still, it was all the money he had saved for his entire life, and he had made his parents angry by sneakily spending it. All to earn a cheesy stamp. The jet stamp had to include amazing perks, or else why would it be worth so many tickets?
Chris was a smart kid, and he had remained adamant. He had insisted that the rewards of the stamp were way cooler than a free lifetime supply of Arcadeland tokens, tons better than free lifetime Arcadeland food and drinks. Chris had promised that Roman would thank him forever. Now Risa too.
Roman pressed his cheek into his pillow. He had no savings left. He had gotten grounded for a week of his precious summer vacation. But if Marisa and Chris would put up the money for him to keep earning tickets, Roman knew he had to go back to Arcadeland.
by Shauna - reviewed on October 03, 2012
What a fun story! The "gang" gets involved once again using magical candy... This time... Their friends have disappeared and now they need to help launch a rescue... The plan... Earn magical stamps by playing games at Arcadeland thus earning their way into the magical team of the opposition.. That way they can learn how to free their friends AND possible say the world!