Reaching the end of a trilogy can be both a thrilling and upsetting experience. Thrilling in the fact that readers have spent hours reading the first two books to finally reach the conclusion, yet knowing they have reached the end of a fun, adventurous, heart wrenching, emotional, etc. ride causes readers to become upset. Chad Morris has once again released a gripping novel for children and adults of basically any age group (let us say past the age of ten) with the third and final book of his Cragbridge Hall trilogy The Impossible Race.
Only a little over halfway through their first year at Cragbridge Hall, Abby and Derick have been through a lot: stopping a man desperate to change the tragic events of the past… twice, fighting with every ounce of knowledge and bravery they have… twice, and nearly losing their grandfather and parents… twice, being just a few of the events they have had to endure. With many of the key adult players in the story as well as the villainous Charles Muns out of commission dues to poison, one would think Abby, Derick, and the friends they have made would receive a reprieve from their heroic efforts. However, as all hero stories go, the hero (or heroes, in this case) do not get to rest and, barely a month after the events of The Avatar Battle, a new evil has arisen to aid Muns and the future is in more danger than anyone could possibly imagine. The only way Abby and Derick can save the world this time is by working together with their friends in an annual Cragbridge Hall tournament called the Race.
This trilogy is still surprising in the fact that all three of the stories take place in just the span of a school year (not even that). That is a lot of pressure to put on young children. And yet, Morris does an excellent job at developing these young characters throughout the progression of his books. Abby is so much braver and more confident in her abilities, focusing more on what she can do rather than what she is unable to do. Derick is forced to look at his life in a new light and develops a closer bond with his sister, realizing she is amazing without being super smart. Even Carol, sweet and overly talkative Carol, shows a side readers would not have expected to see from her.
There is so much good to say about this book, but let us focus on the main purpose of the book: the Race. How Morris set up the race has a familiar feel to the epic conclusion of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One: he adds in familiar aspects of pop culture as well as literature and mythology. In a nut shell, many aspects of the Race are every nerdy bookworm’s fantasies come to life. Granted, the nerdgasm a nerdy reader will experience after reading Cline’s book is not one readers will experience in The Impossible Race, but readers will still become excited with the references to Greek mythology, Beowulf, and as well as a few others.
As with The Inventor’s Secret and The Avatar Battle, Morris has included new important life lessons for younger readers (and older readers) to take with them as they grow and mature. The importance of family found in the first two books is taken to a new level in The Impossible Race when Derick finds himself in a position that makes him realize that he not only loves his parents and grandfather, but he also loves Abby. It seems many siblings, no matter the generation, either get along or never talk to one another. Brothers and/ or sisters can be some of the best friends a person ever has and, without that relationship, a family will never be one hundred percent complete. One of the most important lessons is found in this book and, if younger readers take any lessons away from any of these books, it should be this one: make the future yours.
The future is unpredictable and that makes it both exciting and frightening. If people were given the chance to see into their own future to see where they would end up, would they try as hard to reach that point in their lives? Two movies of today really focus on this story line: Marvel’s X-Men: Days of Future Past and Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. Charles Xavier has a monologue at the start of Days of Future Past and states, “Is the future truly set?” When Lewis meets his future self in Meet the Robinsons, he is told that the future he sees can be his, but he must make the right choices and “Keep moving forward.” Both of these fit very well with Morris’ message, for people never know what the future holds, nor should they know. In The Impossible Race, there is a great line from Oscar Cragbridge to Abby, “Because we can’t see the future, no one makes perfect choices all the time… But after we make a choice, make the most of it. Learn from it. Choose to take the difficult and make something worthwhile out of it… You must keep at it. It is a game of diligence… Trying invincibly day after day is better than small moments of brilliance” (Morris 94).
There is so much more to say about The Impossible Race, but to avoid spoiling important plot points, one must simply read Morris’ latest installment for oneself. Trilogies can be tricky and it is easy for a writer to fall into a bit of a lull when writing the next books (the sequel is probably the death trap in this), yet Morris made each of his books in his Cragbridge Hall trilogy better than the next and ended it on such a high note that one does not want it to come to an end. If fan fictions of this series are not written about Abby and Derick in future years at Crabridge Hall, it will be quite surprising. Morris has kicked off his career as a writer on a high note and readers should keep their eyes open to see what he has in store next.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on April 5, 2015.