Publisher: Castleton Press (2018)
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Twelve-year-old Skyler Beam cops a squat onto his bean bag chair and logs into his favorite game Ethyr—his only real form of pleasure these days. He powers up his avatar, SkyWyz12, and goes in search of his friends across the lunar surface but strikes outs. He is alone for the moment. Soon, a nameless player appears, who possesses impressive skills beyond the game’s design, and takes an interest in Skyler. Within minutes, the silent companion gets a bit too clingy for comfort, but SkyWyz12 can’t shake the irritating avatar and then discovers why. “Skyler Beam, I’ve been looking for you.” Skyler freaks, logs out, and slams his laptop cover closed.

Ethyr is a multi-player game offering different scenarios such as the House of Dragon dojo where players spar (clobber) each other to earn colored belts, or Lunarscape, where, propelled by jetpacks, they can fly around the Moon.

Skyler tells his friend and fellow Ethyr enthusiast, Ellie, of his encounter with the silent avatar and asks her to join him in the game later that day. She agrees, and they meet inside the dojo, along with two friends from his old school, Eddie and Brian. Soon, a mysterious, silent opponent appears, and the game morphs into something real. Skyler’s friends disappear, and he is locked in hand-to-hand combat with his opponent – with actual swords. Skyler gets his butt kicked and ends up with a sword point tickling his throat. His opponent, Neshama, suddenly allows him up and begins to answer a few questions. Once Skyler escapes the game, he grows more determined to learn more about Neshama’s and his secrets.

Now Skyler’s world begins to tilt off its axis. Unexplainable incidents and events occur all around him. He craves answers, but there is only one way to find them: he must re-enter Ethyr. Unfortunately, to do so, may come at the incredible cost of his life or lives of those closest to him.

Follin excels at creating the settings for Skyler’s everyday life both inside and outside of Ethyr. Her smooth prose, realistic dialogue, tension and conflict between the characters, descriptions, surprising twists and turns, and solid pacing make for a delightful read for all ages.

Ethyr – the novel – is a real pleasure to read!

M.P. Follin won 1st Place in the 2016 Gertrude Warner Awards for Ethyr.