This book was an interesting, quick read that I think will be good for my boys, who I have a difficult time convincing that reading is fun. The main characters are 11 years old and accidentally end up in the middle of a murder/kidnapping/alchemy plot. That sounds more dark than it really is. The story is very appropriate for children of that age (& younger, I'm sure my 8 year old could read it) and interesting enough for those who are older as well. Yes, there are certainly fantastical developments in this novel, but the kids still act & think like kids. This is something I appreciate after trying to read some of my kids' 39 Clues books. I liked the world travel & mystery, but what kids that age think of the things those two do?! Anyway, the author has a fun way of writing with little asides to the kids about his feelings (or lack thereof) and definitions of new things. He also includes an appendix of directions for how to do some of the things mentioned in the book, such as making your own compass & codebreaking. I would agree with others that this book is more simple and not as engaging as Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events, but for kids who are not yet ready for the length & complexity of those series this book is a good choice.