Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror is the story of a boy named Falcon Quinn who boards the school bus one day as usual, only instead of taking him to school, the bus takes him to The Academy of Monsters, where children go to learn how to suppress their monstrous natures so as to better pass themselves off in human society. At first Falcon thinks it’s all some big mistake, but soon enough he learns that it’s no mistake he actually is a monster himself. Upon arrival, he and his classmates are given a test to determine what kind of monsters they are Frankensteins, Sasquatches, elementals, chupacabras...you name it. But unlike all of his classmates at the Academy, no one knows what kind of monster Falcon is.
For readers, it’s that central mystery that drives the plot of Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror, but for listeners it’ll be Fred Berman’s enthusiastic and highly entertaining performance. Berman is one of those vocal chameleons who is able to provide distinct and wildly different voices for each of the characters he portrays. Here he showcases a dynamic range, from surfer-dude brogue to growly Franken-speak to the somewhat-hyper Latina chupacabra and all work wonderfully in bringing the narrative to life. The overall effect is something like listening to an animated film or cartoon’s voice over, which makes it all the more amazing that it’s all done by one person. Older listeners may feel that in some of the more bombastic passages Berman goes a bit overboard, but the target middle-grade audience should love the performance from start to finish.
The book itself, while a bit derivative, and at times heavy-handed with its message, is an enjoyable romp, sure to please fans of the Harry Potter series looking for something in the same vein. It’s quite fun, perhaps overly silly at times, but the story is one that most young people should be able to relate to, given its broad theme of social isolation. And in the end it’s just a rollicking good adventure story that listeners of all ages should be able to enjoy. John Joseph Adams