Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Kieran Larwood & Joe Todd-Stanton

Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial – at a glance

The School Reading Lists’ five word review: humour, world building, challenges, heroes.
Children’s book title: Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial.
Children’s author: Kieran Larwood.
Children’s illustrator: Joe Todd-Stanton.
Genre: Children’s fiction.
Published by: Nosy Crow.
ISBN: 9781839945182.
Recommended for children aged: 7-9 year-olds.
First published: Paperback June 2024.
This children’s book is ideal for: 7-9 year olds looking for fast-paced, character-driven adventure.

Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial

To see the latest price or order, click on the book cover image.

Our review:

Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial opens with Kit, a gnorf (part gnome, part dwarf) from Zerb, who has always dreamed of becoming a dungeon runner, watching the latest trials avidly in the local inn. When the show’s presenters – Jenna the Giant and Dirk the orc – announce a rare opportunity for a new team to qualify, Kit can’t help but get excited: even if he knows he doesn’t stand much of a chance.

However, when next-door neighbour Breg, a bullying troll-like creature, taunts Kit and his gobrot friend Kleekoo and kicks them out of the inn (literally), Kit’s fierce sense of injustice surfaces and he unwittingly challenges him and his dim-witted sidekicks to win the dungeon-running challenge!

Soon regretting it, Kit worries: not only does he not have a team, but he doesn’t have a weapon. This easy-to-read story is perfect for 7-11 year-olds and I felt invested in this underdog story from the first chapter.

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After an unsuccessful start to his search for a team, Kit meets another gnorf, Sandy Sanders, a mage whose ambition is to become a sea hag. She’s not Kit’s first choice, but seeing as he doesn’t have much choice, they join forces: Kit becomes the ‘fighter’ and Sandy the ‘mage’. All they need now is a ‘healer’. Taking Kit to the grimmest part of Zerb, Sandy introduces Thorn Darkblood – a vegan vampire (yes – really!).

Again, Kit is unconvinced, but the threesome comes together as an unlikely team and names itself Triple Trouble. With no time to prepare, Kit is forced to fashion himself a home-made wooden sword. Will the unlikely three defeat all the unknown monsters in the dungeon and come out alive – and victorious? And will the boastful Breg and his team The Toetal Champyons leave Kit and his team alone to tackle the tasks ahead?

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Our verdict:

Fully invested in this rags-to-riches tale, I couldn’t help but cheer on the underdogs in this easy-to-follow adventure. Kit has a relatable character and as the friendship between him, Sandy and Thorn develops, they prove that teamwork can make a difference. The dungeon run is full of trials that test Triple Trouble’s resilience, problem-solving abilities and nerves. With hurdles at every stage of their quest, Kit and his team prove that positivity and working together can lead to overcoming the odds! Who knew that Sandy’s sandcastle-making magic would help defeat a monster made of slime? And that Thorn’s veganism would be tested to the max?

Joe Todd-Stanton’s illustrations complement the story brilliantly and the top trumps-style cards for characters are an eye-catching way to engage readers. I particularly liked the ‘eyebats’ and would have found them difficult to envisage without a picture of them. The dungeon-running commentators were a great duo – like Zerb’s answer to Ant and Dec: the speech bubbles used for them added another element to the text.

I can’t wait to recommend Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial to my Key Stage 2 pupils – especially those who love fantasy-adventure novels. The fact that it’s only the first in a series is even more exciting!

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Many thanks to Nosy Crow for the review copy.

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If you like Dungeon Runners: Hero Trial by Kieran Larwood & Joe Todd-Stanton you might also like: our reviews of How to be a Genius Kid by Waldo Pancake, Grimwood: Attack of the Stink Monster by Nadia Shireen, Peregrine Quinn and the Cosmic Realm by Ash Bond, Super Space Weekend: Adventures in Astronomy by Gaëlle Alméras and Monster Stink by Anna Brooke.

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About Nicola Carden

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I'm a Year 6 teacher and English lead, passionate about reading and writing. I love to build my knowledge of children's literature to support pupils in choosing new books and becoming life-long readers themselves. I also prefer children's literature myself! Reviews by Nicola Carden