Tunnels by Roderick Gordon

Will and His father have a strange pastime -- they like to dig. All their lives they have dreamed of uncovering something spectacular and of great archeological significance-- and perhaps even become famous in the process. But Will realizes that their seemingly harmless pastime may be more dangerous than they think when his father suddenly goes mysteriously missing. Will thinks something suspicious is going on -- especially with all the strange pale-faced men in dark coats walking around his neighbourhood. So Will and his friend, Chester, begin where his father is most likely to have gone: underground. It is then that they find a hidden underworld governed by the Styx, a murderous subterranean race who want to extend their rule to the world above. Unfortunately Will and Chester are captured before they can return home. 

The book is slow to start (which might lose some readers), but once Will finds the underground world, the pace picks up and there are plenty of chase scenes, fights and tense moments. I found the tone quite dark and serious, which made things suspenseful and more scary. Gordon does a good job of creating the underworld and the bad guys. I've always felt the antagonist(s) of a story play a large part in making the plot exciting. If they're not evil enough, why would you care if the characters got away or not? In this case, the Styx were terrible enough to keep me rooting for Will...

I wouldn't recommend this to readers looking for immediate action since it takes so long for the excitement to start, but those who don't mind sticking around longer will probably get hooked on the series, as it really does have a good plot and ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. And while it's categorized as children's fiction, the dark storyline would probably make it suitable for young teens too.

This is the first in the series of six books (five have been published so far). Visit the Tunnels website for info on the sequels, plus special documents (e.g. Will's journal) and deleted scenes.

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