A Leap into Darkness


Children - Animals
221 Pages
Reviewed on 10/02/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Ray Petrolino didn't start writing until his dog told him to (and who then immediately instructed the slow-witted man not to end a sentence with a preposition). Up to that point, Ray had just been a guy walking around for some odd number of years with a lot of ideas in his head (some rather strange, admittedly).

One day when this man was teaching his bichon a new trick, the animal became rather bored with the affair and began speaking. His first words were that his human was an "abject failure" and followed that up with "anyone can walk around and claim to have good ideas" (the quadruped went on to explain that he himself had wonderful storylines and that it was only because he lacked opposable thumbs that he had not already put them to paper).

And so the dog struck up a partnership with his previously inert owner: the dog dictated and the man wrote.

The results have been surprisingly positive, with both the fantasy/family feature screenplay A Leap into Darkness and the horror/comedy TV pilot A Zombie in the Attic both placing in several screenwriting competitions.

A follow-up novel A Leap into Darkness finally came out in 2022 (not surprisingly, the hero of the story is...wait for it...a talking dog). The dog insisted that the book be released in no more than four months. The man balked, the dog bit the hand that feeds it, and the two finally compromised on four dog-months instead.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jessica Barbosa for Readers' Favorite

Jake is a Bichon Frisé that Rose and Chris found when he was a pup. He had been bathed in a golden shimmer--the Shine--and Rosie believes he is one of the Sculptor’s “wise ones”. Jake does not believe he is anything more than an ordinary dog who has been through his share of love and loss. One day, like a fairytale, his poor life is transformed by the grace of the King of Gorseland. The King took an interest in him and just like that, Jake’s life is changed forever. He has a new family that loves him and a happy and warm environment to grow up in. One day, while the Royal Family was out, they come across a sorcerer and his raven. Most people and even the royal family’s dogs are drawn to this mysterious sorcerer, except the queen and Jake. Little do they know that their suspicion and association with the sorcerer Beezeldorn and his raven would bring nothing but harm. Will Jake be able to protect his family from this threat? Read Ray Petrolino’s A Leap Into Darkness and find out!

A Leap Into Darkness was a charming fantastical tale that features sorcerers, anthropomorphic animals, a beautiful kingdom, and a sweet familial storyline. Ray Petrolino has crafted a warm-hearted tale with unique twists that kept me flipping through the pages. I was fascinated by the distinctive characters who leave an impression just from their interactions. Jake was a sweet, loyal dog that would bravely do all he can to protect the ones he loved. It took a special person to see who he was and Rose was one of those special people. Her care, love, and sacrifice for Jake left a deep impression on me. I was hooked by this story from the very first chapter. A Leap Into Darkness is a tale woven with care and love. It is a tale of betrayal, trust, family, love, loyalty, friendship, and adventure! The deeper I got into the story the harder it was to put the book down! The map at the start and the illustrations of the characters whenever they were newly introduced into the story made it easier to visualize the story and how everything played out. Overall, this was an extraordinary tale I could see myself reading again in the future. Outstanding work!

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Jake, a fluffy little dog, loves to perform tricks. It helps his master, Chris, earn enough to feed himself and his wife – and Jake, too. Only, when things go wrong, Chris instantly turns on Jake, blaming him. One day of abuse in public attracts the attention of the King of Gorseland, who, along with his two children, instantly adopts and protects Jake, taking him to their luxurious home in the castle. Jake heals from the injuries inflicted by Chris and learns that he is a special dog with magical talents. one of which is the ability to sense trouble. Jake is one of the “wise ones,” and, although he doesn’t know how to save the queen when she senses trouble, he does know how to help save the kingdom.

Ray Petrolino’s middle-grade novel, A Leap into Darkness, is an epic fantasy that will capture the hearts and imaginations of both young readers and the young at heart. The main character, Jake, leads the plot through an adventurous journey that has the little dog and his royal family and friends pitted against an evil sorcerer who threatens to destroy all Jake holds dear. The conflict of good against evil makes for the typical grand battle of wills and magical forces, much like the much-loved adventures in C.S. Lewis’ stories about Narnia. The author creates a richly descriptive narrative to set the stage. The anthropomorphic animals, with their special talents and abilities to communicate in a language humans understand, allow dialogue to flow freely and effectively to move the story along. As this was originally written as a screenplay, it’s not surprising that the reader will instantly get the sense that the story is being played out on a stage of sorts. This tender and compassionate story explores adventure, fantasy, the battle between good and evil, and the ever-powerful bonds of love and family.

Kristen Van Kampen (Teen Reviewer)

A Leap into Darkness by Ray Petrolino is a fascinating fantasy about a talking dog named Jake. After one of Jake’s owners dies and the other becomes neglectful and abusive, Jake is taken in by the royal family of Gorseland, where he gets plenty of love and attention from the king’s children, Janice and James. Unfortunately, Gorseland is soon threatened by a sorcerer named Beezeldorn and his raven, who aim to take control of Gorseland for a rival kingdom. Using magic, Beezeldorn manages to gain the trust of the royal family, who begin to follow his so-called guidance, despite it being harmful to their kingdom. Jake learns the truth about Beezeldorn, but his family refuses to listen to him. It’s up to him to stop Beezeldorn’s evil plan… but how?

With a suspenseful plot and likable characters, A Leap into Darkness by Ray Petrolino is a must-read. The book is well written and descriptive, and I liked the way that the third-person narrative allows the reader to gain insight into the motivations and actions of multiple characters, instead of just Jake. The story evokes many different emotions, some happy, some sad, and some scary, with many exciting parts that are sure to keep the reader entertained. The plot is intriguing, unique, and suspenseful, and I always wanted to know what would happen next. Jake is a likable character that the reader will root for, and all the others are detailed and interesting. The illustrations depicting the characters are well drawn and help the reader to visualize them. I enjoyed reading this book, and I would recommend it.

Rolanda Lyles

In A Leap into Darkness by Ray Petrolino, we learn that Jake is a fluffy little dog who lives a peasant life with his masters Chris and Rosie. He and Chris perform tricks for the public to get tips from passers-by, but one day all that changes. After the unfortunate death of his beloved Rosie, Jake is abandoned by his master Chris and taken in by the royal family. The King of Gorseland's two royal children, Janice and James, love and care for Jake as their own. Their contented life is threatened when they encounter the sorcerer Beezeldorn and his raven in a crowd-pleasing performance, with his sleight-of-hand tricks and cheap spectacle. His power from black magic runs deep and he plans to take out the Queen and eventually rule the kingdom. Jake knows that something is wrong and tries to warn others, but no one will listen. Beezeldorn is always one step ahead, manipulating everyone who comes in contact with him. Now it's up to Jake to protect his family, but will he be able to stop this evil villain and save the kingdom?

Ray Petrolino's A Leap Into Darkness is a magical adventure story full of talking creatures, witches, sorcerers, and an epic fight between good and evil to save a kingdom. If you are into stories like The Chronicles of Narnia, you will enjoy this book. Petrolino's descriptive writing portrays the characters and scenes vividly and masterfully. Join Jake and his friends in this gripping adventure story that is sure to have readers immersed until the very end. This is a must-read for all fantasy adventure lovers.

Jennie More

A Leap into Darkness by Ray Petrolino is a story set in 1588 of Jake, a little white bichon dog, who helps his owners, Rose and Chris, make a living through the skits he does to music to entertain the townsfolk. But Jake is more than an entertainer; he has a special calling in his life, and only Rose seems to be aware of it. The King of Gorseland adopts Jake in what appears to be a predestined action. Here Jake lives with the king and his children, James and Janice. Jake loves his new home, new family, and animal friends who live with him in the kingdom. However, his situation turns dark when the sorcerer Beezeldorn ravages his family's health and hearts with dark forces that seem beyond anyone's control. Jake goes on a wild and horrific adventure to fight against these forces that have taken control of the king and all the king's men.

A Leap into Darkness by Ray Petrolino is a delightful, fascinating, imaginative, suspenseful, and thrilling story about the Gorseland Kingdom. Petrolino created endearing characters that kept me engaged and invested in learning how the story would end. One would think that animal characters would detract from the seriousness with which the reader considers the plot. Still, their vivid and entertaining personas fit in perfectly with the storyline and enthralled me with their journey, accepting and admiring each character's role in every scene and the overall story. The plot is exciting, with countless adventures or missions incorporated throughout to achieve the outcome. I loved reading A Leap Into Darkness; it is one of the best preteen children's books I've read.