Shortly after being denied access to the Dungeon Crawlers Academy, Nathan attends an auction for magical items in his town. When the dragon on display for auction becomes upset and starts shooting fireballs into the crowd, Nathan picks up a nearby powerful wizard staff to save the day. Unfortunately for him, the staff is worth around five million dollars and has attuned itself to Nathan. Meaning no one else will ever be able to use it. In order to pay for the expensive artifact, Nathan is forced to enroll in the Academy and starts the long process of learning how to use his new magical abilities in order to go on quests, where he will gather and bring back treasure and magical artifacts that can be sold to pay off his debt. 

Nathan soon learns that he is not the only outcast at the school and finds himself teaming up with Zach, a warrior, and Mandy, a thief. On their first adventuring trip through the portal, instead of an easy assignment, they are unexpectedly confronted with an army of goblins that they must outwit in order to escape alive. 

This was a very entertaining portal fantasy (or isekai for your manga lovers who might be interested in branching out to Western comics) that doesn’t cover any new concepts or themes. In fact, it includes a lot of the tropes associated with role-playing games. I think that subsequent volumes may diverge from those, though, as the story elements introduced toward the end of the volume have the potential to shake things up. 

Overall, the artwork is nicely done with a lot of emotion and detail showing on the page. I also enjoyed the short pamphlet at the very end that details the academy and some of the teachers. This book something I recommend for middle grade readers in 4th-6th grades, but I think it would also appeal to readers on either side of that depending on interest and reading level. 

Dungeon Crawlers Academy, vol. 1: Into the Portal
By J.P. Sullivan
Art by Elmer Damaso
Seven Seas, 2022
ISBN: 9781645059783

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

  • Liz

    | she/her Assistant Professor


    Elizabeth Hollendonner is an Assistant Professor for Staley Library at Millikin University. She has been reading and enjoying graphic novels and manga since grade school, took a comics class under Dr. Carol Tilley and a book review class under Dr. Deborah Stevenson while earning her Master of Science in Library and Information Science degree.

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