CYBILS MG Spec Fiction FINALIST: The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson


The Dungeoneers is an action-packed, funny, and heartbreaking middle grade fantasy-adventure from the author of the acclaimed Sidekicked and Minion, John David Anderson.

The world is not a fair place, and Colm Candorly knows it. While his parents and eight sisters seem content living on a lowly cobbler's earnings, Colm can't help but feel that everyone has the right to a more comfortable life. It's just a question of how far you're willing to go to get it.

In an effort to help make ends meet, Colm uses his natural gift for pickpocketing to pilfer a pile of gold from the richer residents of town, but his actions place him at the mercy of a mysterious man named Finn Argos, a gilded-toothed, smooth-tongued rogue who gives Colm a choice: he can be punished for his thievery, or he can become a member of Thwodin's Legions, a guild of dungeoneers who take what they want and live as they will. Colm soon finds himself part of a family of warriors, mages, and hunters, learning to work together in a quest to survive and, perhaps, to find a bit of treasure along the way.


Colm leaves home after pickpocketing coins to help support his large family.  He figures it's better than losing his hand.  And the man who takes him away promises him a future of adventure and treasure.  But once Colm faces tests that give him a taste of what his new life will be like, he's not so sure.  But his talents for picking locks and his new friends as well as wanting desperately to help his family carry him through the challenges he faces, although large scorpions, and spiked ceilings aren't his idea of a good time.  And he quickly realizes that survival in this new environment he finds himself in will require everything he has to give, especially when someone he trusts betrays him and everything he thought he was working for and he has to make a choice about where his priorities really lie.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book such as the friends Colm makes along the way and the training he undergoes.  And of course, the adventuring was fun, if dangerous.  The setting was fascinating, especially Thwodin's castle with it's ins and outs.  And Finn Argos and the other masters who did the teaching were mysterious enough to leave lots of questions.  The plot twists and turns were great.  I was sad when Colm was betrayed by someone he trusted, but it works with the story.  I wasn't such a fan of the fact that Colm and his friends are being trained to steal and think it's okay, even if it's from orcs and goblins who stole it in the first place. And frankly, for the age range it's aimed at it a bit long (over four hundred pages) and descriptive.  I didn't mind it because I like that in a book, especially a fantasy book, but some young readers might get a bit bogged down.  Overall, though I enjoyed the book and can heartily recommend it to young fantasy readers who like a healthy dose of adventuring with their fantasy.


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