In the distant past, legendary Pokémon Arceus was betrayed and nearly killed by a human it trusted. Now, after a long time healing itself in isolation, Arceus returns. Its reappearance blurs the borders between several dimensions, causing dangerous conflict between the territorial Pokémon who are those realms’ guardians. Even more dangerous is Arceus itself, powerful again and looking for revenge against the whole human race.
Enter Ash and Pikachu. Traveling with their friends Dawn and Brock, they stumble on the ruins of the place where Arceus was betrayed and meet those ruins’ friendly guardians, Sheena and Kevin. These two can communicate with Pokémon, and they’ve sensed Arceus’ return. Since it was Sheena’s ancestor who tricked the mighty Pokémon out of the Jewel of Life, she’s determined to make amends by returning the jewel.
But the story of Sheena’s ancestor is not as straightforward as it seems. It’s going to take Ash and his friends, Sheena, and the powers of the legendary Pokémon of several different realms to return the Jewel of Life and make peace with Arceus.
Courtesy of a Pokémon that rules the realm of time, this is largely a time travel story. The implications of this are handled without too much reflection, but do not seem to create too many paradox-y problems. My only real confusion is caused by Team Rocket’s brief appearance, which seems to leave some loose ends: in the present day, Jessie, James, and Meowth run off with a treasure that, one assumes, retroactively ceases to exist after Ash and company’s actions in the past. We don’t, however, see anything to indicate that the treasure does vanish or alter.
The characters, human and Pokémon alike, are drawn playfully, with an exuberance that matches hero Ash’s bouncy attitude. Most of the human characters look childlike, with expressive faces and few sharp angles. Even adult comic-relief villains Jessie and James look, and certainly behave, young. The loyal friendships (among humans and between humans and Pokémon) and non-scary action will appeal to young readers.
This book does reference other events in the Pokémon canon. Ash has a flashback to a previous encounter with a legendary Pokémon; fans of the series will be familiar with Brock’s comically unsuccessful attempts at flirting. (Those new to the franchise, on the other hand, will appreciate the introduction to the characters at the beginning of the book.) It is, however, fairly successful as a stand-alone volume. A movie of the same story also exists, and may be a good tie-in for some readers.