The Tower at the End of the World by John Bellairs & Brad StricklandThe Tower at the End of the World by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland

The Tower at the End of the World by John Bellairs & Brad StricklandIn The Tower at the End of the World (2001), the ninth novel in  John Bellairs & Brad Strickland’s LEWIS BARNAVELT series, Strickland once again pays tribute to the late Bellairs by returning to, and expanding the plot of the first novel in the series, The House with a Clock in its Walls.

At this point, Lewis is 13 years old and has just finished reading Sax Rohmer’s FU MANCHU series. (I love that kids are learning about classic fantasy literature in these stories!) Lewis is upset that FU MANCHU is over, so he’s sulking (we can relate, right?). To cheer him up, the adults decide to take Lewis and his best friend Rose Rita on a trip to Lake Superior.

While on vacation, several unsettling things happen. A stranger gives Lewis a letter that has indecipherable ancient runes on it. Lewis sees shadowy figures that others don’t see. Then, while boating, a mysterious island with a tower appears out of nowhere and, when they visit it, they find skeletons.

When they return home, the strangeness continues and Lewis keeps having bad dreams and seeing weird illusions. It seems like somebody wants him to think that that evil wizard from the first book is back, though Mrs. Zimmerman assures Lewis that Isaac Izard is dead and gone. The worst bit is when Lewis finds out that he will die in 48 days!

The Tower at the End of the World by John Bellairs & Brad StricklandThe stakes are high in The Tower at the End of the World, making the story intense, scary, and occasionally gross. Even the adults are in danger. Kids will learn about folklore and fantasy literature (and not just Fu Manchu).

But the villain in this installment is a silly caricature (the villains seem to be getting worse as the series goes on) and the plot is too reminiscent of previous volumes. It feels like Strickland is recycling the elements that have worked before.

Though I appreciate his tribute to Bellairs’ first book, this sequel is a bit weak. Recorded Books’ audio edition narrated by George Guidall is very well done, though.

Published in 2001. When Lewis, his uncle Jonathan, and their friends Rose Rita Pottinger and Mrs. Zimmermann take a trip to a small town near Lake Superior, they expect a pleasant vacation. Instead, they find themselves facing the ghastly Ishmael Izard, son of the fiendish creator of the Doomsday Clock that was once hidden in the walls of Uncle Jonathan’s house. Ishmael himself is a cruel and heartless sorcerer, and he is determined to wreak vengeance upon the entire world. Will Lewis and his friends be strong enough to defeat him, or will their fate be decided by their most formidable foe yet?


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.