A promising first novel from an imaginative young talent. Even though Colfer is a newcomer to the world of novel writing, I feel that he accomplished what he set out to accomplish with this book.
Children (especially those who have feelings of inadequacy or who have suffered early tragedy, just like Colfer did as a child) will find lots of hope within its pages, along with bravery and kindness and self-acceptance. It's a book about how every seemingly happy ending creates a new set of struggles to contend with, which you have to keep trying your best to overcome -- while also making good moral decisions and finding some kind of peace in spite of hardship. It's also a book about how things often seem to happen for a reason, and how unexpectedly wonderful things can happen as a result of painful struggles.
The book has some interesting meditations on the nature of deep loneliness and longing -- and what people are capable of doing to remedy those heartaches. It's one of the strongest themes that run throughout the story. It appears as a theme in many ways with a variety of outcomes, and manages to be melancholy and uplifting at the same time, which is really lovely. Even with all of that sadness being examined so deeply, the book manages to be really funny and light.
Another thing the book does strongly is preaching the power of understanding and compassion, even towards people who have done terrible things. It doesn't condone those terrible things, and it heavily emphasizes doing the RIGHT thing, but it deftly paints the characters as more complex humans than the classic Good Vs Evil stories do, which makes it all much more interesting and more relevant to real world conflicts.
It isn't a perfect book, of course, and it could have benefited from a little more editing in a few places, but it's very charming and clever and more-than-a-little magical. I found myself giggling out loud at least once every chapter, and I even got a little teary-eyed in a few places. It will speak to children and adults on different levels emotionally while taking them all on a sweet, exciting adventure.
I can't wait to read my copy of the book to my young niece and nephew.