What I would describe as early-fantasy, a book for kids who are getting into the genre. Snappy and well-paced, the book is also dotted with sweet moments that may bring a tear to the eye.
William lives in a nice suburb with his ever-busy parents (I found it sweet how he still loves and treasures his parents, despite their frequent absence) and the nanny/maid, Mrs. Phillips. William receives shattering news: Mrs. Phillips intends to return to England. As a consolation gift, she gives him a toy castle with accompanying knight, and a tiny metal charm.
Then the knight comes to life. The tiny silver man, Sir Simon, soon befriends William as the young man goes to desperate lengths to keep Mrs. Phillips. But a knight can't forget his duty, and soon William becomes entangled in the clutches of Alastor, the evil wizard. But how can a physically unimpressive ten-year-old defeat a powerful magician?
William is an enjoyable character, made more so by his anxiety over Mrs. Phillips and general decency toward his fellow man. I also enjoyed the comparisons using his gymnastics lessons as examples of self-control and discipline.
Mrs. Phillips was a lovely character, very compassionate and caring, but firm in her intentions. Alastor was pure evil, while Sir Simon was a thoroughly likeable and decent guy, without being too perfect or anything like that. I found Calender to be a rather sorry character, and was glad of the resolution written for her.
The plot is pleasantly original, though I wish less time had been spent in "our" world. The writing style is rather ordinary, the first half a bit slow, and the descriptions somewhat underfleshed. However, the simple yet effective plot and good characterization overcome those problems. Without a doubt, kids should check out this book, and also the even-better sequel "The Battle for the Castle."