It's generally understood that you don't see or read a sequel without experiencing the first story in a series. That's why it was hard for me to read Out of Abaton: Lord of Monsters having not read the first book, Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince. Being loosely based on the classic tale of Pinocchio, it took about a third of the book to fully grasp what was going on. However, I soon found myself enjoying the journey.
Being a Disney Hyperion book, I initially expected this story to stay close to the Disney animated version of Pinocchio. However, he is neither Disney's little wooden boy nor Collodi's marionette. What I clearly missed from the first book is that Geppetto and Pinocchio are from Venice, where humans have used magic from the island of Abaton to create Automas (wooden robots with gears and a magic brain). Pinocchio was an Automa and in Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince, this unlikely father and son got caught on an adventure with Abaton's Princess Lazuli. Pinocchio somehow become the new ruler of Abaton (aka Prester), was given the Ancientmost Pearl, and became a real boy. He is older than his Disney animation counterpart and while he does have a cricket companion, he's no Jiminy and his name here is Maestro.
In Lord of Monsters, Pinoccho and Lazuli are now sharing Prester duties in Abaton and are ready to celebrate with a royal banquet. But when an ancient monster that is supposed to be imprisoned crashes the party, Pinocchio and his team of defenders must get to the bottom of how the monsters escaped their prison and why they are being attacked. The only problem is that each time Pinocchio uses the magic pearl to stop these attacks, another part of him becomes wooden again. This is especially tough because Abatonians hate Automas, perceiving them as defiling their precious magic. If the people discover that their ruler is an abomination, what will happen to him?
The Out of Abaton series reads like an RPG video game at times, with too many side characters making it difficult to keep track of who they all are. In my head, I was essentially picturing Jonathan Taylor Thomas' version of Pinocchio existing in a Final Fantasy or Kingdom Hearts game. Most of the characters in Abaton are either a humanoid animal hybrid (cat people, lizard people, owl people?) or strange beings like living mushrooms and orbs. Again, it took a long time for me to get used to this world and begin to understand it.
The end of this book sets up a third adventure and I have no doubt that author John Claude Bemis is already hard at work on another Abaton novel. I was grateful to discover a Glossary at the back of the book, which helped me keep track of who and what everything is. Like Lord of the Rings, there's a lot of new types of creatures to learn about. The series is recommended for ages 8 to 12, but is easily accessibly for teens and adults as well.
If you like Pinocchio (any version) and RPG video games like Final Fantasy, then the Out of Abaton series should be right up your alley. Those unfamiliar with the series are encouraged to start with the first book, The Wooden Prince, and then continue on to Lord of Monsters if they want more.