Monday, June 11, 2018

[Book & Audiobook Review] Ethan and the Key by Dennis Canfield

Book photo of Ethan and the Key by Dennis Canfield

Ethan and the Key by Dennis Canfield is a wonderful middle grade fantasy that flashes between the "normal" world and the kingdom of Abentur.

The action begins right away and totally sucks you in. I picked this one up one afternoon and couldn't put it down until I had finished the read.

Full disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my rating in any way. 

Let's dive in!

Ethan and the Key by Dennis Canfield

Twelve-year-old Ethan Mason is focused on baseball, math tests, and staying out of Howard Russman’s way. That is, until a mysterious puddle of green light appears in the upstairs hallway of his home. The light brings Ethan to the kingdom of Abentur, a beautiful world defended by a dragon against vicious invaders and Draykik, their brutal leader. Ethan can’t tell his parents or friends or anyone else about the new world he’s discovered, because he has no way to prove, even to himself, that it really exists. When the invaders capture the castle and take him and the royal family prisoner, Ethan learns that he alone may be able to save Abentur. But should he risk his life for the kingdom?

The Story:

This book didn't waste any time at all; I love how we dove right into the action in chapter one! From there, it was a very fast-paced and action-packed tale that I just could not put down.

Like I said above, the story flashed between the "normal" world and the kingdom of Abentur. I loved this organization because it added a layer of anticipation to the story that wouldn't have been there if we had just stuck to the kingdom. There was also a level of humor throughout this book that kept me laughing out loud. Whenever Ethan did or said something that the people of Abentur didn't understand, such as offering a fist-bump, I would chuckle. I really enjoyed how bits and pieces of the "real world" were thrown in like that! Another great example was when Ethan rode the dragon, Smoke, for the first time:

Ethan was flying on the back of a dragon, the greatest thrill he had ever experienced. What he wouldn't have given for a GoPro at that moment!

The descriptions were lovely! They were so well done that I had no problem really imagining the landscapes, the architecture, the decor, and the people.

The characters were all so fun! I loved how each of their personalities were reflected, even if they were a character that we didn't learn much about. I especially enjoyed their relationships. For example, Ethan's relationship with his friends in the real world was so realistic and humorous. Ethan himself was a lovely main character! I really appreciated how down to earth he was. He was also very smart and brave and he had a bit of the underdog trope going for him, but in a refreshing way.

As for the plot... I don't want to give anything away. I will say that I thought it was really interesting and that there were twists and turns I totally didn't see coming. This is a story that I could read time and time again and never get tired of it because of how fun it is!

This story really had it all; great friendships, a brave main character, interesting family dynamics, humor, action, slight-violence, adventure, and of course, a dragon!


Right from the first line of this one ("YOU'RE OUT!"), I knew it was going to be a great listen! The narrator, Nick Podehl, did a lovely job! He’s so energetic and really performs well! I really loved that he used different voices for each of the characters, and each of them was so different!

This is an audiobook that is such a treat to listen to because of how upbeat and fun it is.

My favorite passages:
He came to the path and joined the line of people going into the castle. They were speaking, but it didn't see like a natural language at all. It sounded more like radio static. It was almost painful to listen to. But he started to hear a few normal words among the static, as if the language part of his brain just needed to find the right frequency for him to understand what people were saying.

He stood about six feet tall, with muscles in his neck and arms and legs that a professional wrestler would have envied. His hooked nose, heavy eyebrows, and the anger in his eyes gave his face a hawk-like appearance, and he was going right at Ethan.

His only hope was that it was all a dream, or a nightmare. But it seemed much too real to be either.

"You're wrestling Howard?" Richard asked. "Where should we send the flowers?"
"It's been nice knowin' ya," Steve added.

It only took Ethan a moment to decide. "Let's rock and roll!"
The king had a puzzled expression. "Pardon me?"
"Sorry. I mean, yes, let's do it."

Ethan was flying on the back of a dragon, the greatest thrill he had ever experienced. What he wouldn't have given for a GoPro at that moment!

He had no idea how much weight to try, but he knew he weighed about ninety pounds. So he selected one hundred pounds, got under the handles, and pushed up.
He might as well have been trying to bench his house. 

My final thoughts:
Both the book and the audiobook were so lovely! Definitely a must-read/listen for any middle grade fantasy fan! It reminded me a bit of the Magic Tree House books, simply from the feeling I got while reading it.

Five cups of tea; I would very highly recommend this book! I cannot wait to reread it.

Thanks for reading!
What is your favorite middle grade fantasy tale?


  1. Glad you enjoyed this one, and I do love when books can add in some humor. Yay for starting with action!!!


  2. Sounds like a great book, and I love it when you find a narrator that has a fab voice too! I have a couple I love to listen to all day


    1. Definitely!! I can see myself re-listening to this one at work!

  3. It's funny. I didn't like fantasy books much as a child, but now as an adult I adore middle grades fantasy. Glad that this one was great.

  4. I love a good fantasy. Great review!

  5. We need more middle grade fantasy. Glad this one was good.

    1. Definitely! This was wonderful!! I highly recommend it! :)

  6. Always looking for good audiobooks for when I drive. I will have to keep this one in mind! Great review!

  7. Looks fun! The characters and the magical world sound really well done, and I like the quotes too. :)

  8. I really need to get back into Middle Grade books! It's been so long. And I just love action-packed plots and fun characters. ♥

    - Aimee @ Aimee, Always

  9. This sounds like something my son would like, and I'm always looking for new MG books to read to him! Thanks for sharing this. <3

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?