Morgan, a 12 year old boy living in lower Manhattan, finds a mysterious stone necklace. It has 11 stones in all, ten of which have crude drawings cut into them (dragon, star, flame, wing, etc.). Unbeknownst to Morgan, the necklace grants the wearer great powers with each stone holding a separate power. The dragon-stone for example gives the wearer great strength, the wing-stone allows him to fly.
Morgan is quickly attacked by an assassin sent to take the necklace from him by the leaders of a civilization intent upon gaining its powers. This assassin, taking his hand from his pocket, reveals claws longer than Edward Scissorhands fingers. Morgan is saved from death by the appearance of a hobo-looking man who lops the head off the would-be assassin. This hobo-looking man turns out to be the "protector" of the necklace wearer. The man is a "shape-changer" and soon changes his appearance (more than once). Shortly thereafter Morgan is again attacked by gothic-appearing killers and then by a savage beast. He is also attacked, in a wonderfully written scene, by the mechanical animals of the Central Park Delecorte Clock.
Morgan, rather than living under the threat of constant attacks on his life and fearful that his own mom would be a victim if he is attacked at home, decides to return the necklace to the true owner, a being called the "keeper", a young (appearing) girl who lives in a land called the Old Dominion.
The power of three of the stones allows Morgan and the protector to reach the Old Dominion. To get there however, they have to pass through the "gate" and to pass through the gate they must solve the puzzle of how it works, of how to open it. (There are other puzzles in this book as well.) Like Dorothy trying to get to the wizard before she is destroyed by the witch and her flying monkeys, Morgan must get to the keeper before he is killed by ever more dangerous assassins who come after him. He moves from one dangerous situation to another, fighting continuously to stay alive. This book is as much a nail-biting suspense novel as it is a wonderfully imagined fantasy.
This report prepared by Ann Carr