Review: The Ring of Solomon

Ring of Solomon

by Aden Polydoros

Inkyard Press, 2023

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Laurie Adler

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When twelve-year-old Zach Darlington buys a magical antique ring for his mother’s birthday, he unwittingly unleashes an egotistic and snarky demon king, some terrifying mythological monsters, and a nefarious secret society. Zach, his best friend Sandra, and demon Ashmedai, or Ash, must struggle within themselves and with each other in order to vanquish ancient beasts and foil a deadly apocalyptic prophecy. Strong sub-plots include Zach’s trepidation about coming out, antisemitism, homophobia, bullying, and navigating a first crush.

Ring of Solomon
is a well-paced, action-packed mythological adventure that fits snugly into the popular genre of Percy Jackson and the Rick Riordon Presents imprint. It will have strong appeal to middle grade readers between 8-12 years, especially those who enjoy mythology and monsters. As evidenced by his other books, most notably The City Beautiful, which won the 2022 Sydney Taylor Award, Aden Polydoros is a master world-builder who knows how to draw readers into the plotline. This book, true to form, is populated with vivid side characters such as Naomi, Zach’s sister, and Dominic, his crush. While I enjoyed the main players, I wish that some, specifically Zach and the three monsters, were more deeply fleshed out to resonate more with readers.

This book is bursting with Jewish themes. Zach identifies as Jewish, and Jewish relics and collectibles run throughout the narrative. He is bullied by classmates because of his religion, and struggles with his Jewish identity within his interfaith family. The intersectionality of Zach’s Jewish and queer identities creates important representation. 

But the real Jewish champions here are the monsters. Polydoros pulls individual characters and themes from midrash, Talmud, and other classical Jewish texts to form a cohesive mythological net. The Talmudic story of Ashmedai the King of Demons and King Solomon is the backbone of the plot. The epic battles are against the Ziz, the Behemoth, and the Leviathan, three monsters culled from Jewish sources. Flaming swords of protection and magic rings come together to make a harmonious fantasy world. The one discordant not-so-Jewish note is the archenemy secret society, the Knights of the Apocalypse, who seek to bring about the end of days by summoning the antichrist. But overall, the world building is impressively constructed from a wide variety of authentic Jewish legends and myths.

There is a pantheon of middle grade fantasy fiction based on the mythologies of different places and cultures. It is high time that an action adventure based on Jewish mythology was added to the mix. Ring of Solomon by Aden Polydoros is a welcome addition to any school or public library shelf, and is a worthy contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Laurie Adler is a librarian in New York who has been reviewing books and working with children of all abilities for over a decade. She currently works in the adult, teen, and children's department at a Nassau County public library.