A friend of mine, whom I’ll call Joe, is writing a children’s/young adults’ fantasy novel. This is something of a departure from his usual oeuvre, computer manuals, of which he has written more than 100. But he has brought to the task his usual thoroughness, in researching everything from ballet to medieval swordsmithing.

(I was Joe’s editor for a time, and while I could sometimes suggest stylistic improvements, I almost never caught him in a factual error. Or one in grammar. I called him once on what I considered an undisputed point, only to have him respond mildly with a list of reputable sources who favored his usage. I felt a bit like my literary uncle who discovered at age 80 that he had been misspelling ukulele all his life.)

But on to Joe’s book. The locale is imaginary, but vaguely medieval. There is a war brewing between adjacent territories. Leading one side are the forces of evil. The champions of the other side are good guys, although not without quirks and failings. They have an unusually adept and winsome dragon. But they must also deal with their own leader, an exemplar of civic corruption. Finally, there is a sort of sees-all-knows-all shapeshifter who pops in and out of the narrative. He can be identified in his various guises by an old-fashioned rose in his lapel.

Joe has a stable of beta readers, who I’m sure are giving him wise advice. I am not a beta reader, or even an omega one—just an interested on-looker. Joe did consult me recently when one of the betas objected to the arch-villain’s summary beheading, with her sword, of a lackey who had offended her. Let her do it, I advised. Evil should shock. And she is truly demonic, as well as an amazing ballet dancer, the tragic Lucifer of this piece.

After the first chapter or two, I had a concern that Joe’s extraordinary computer mind might be complicating the plot beyond the patience of his teenage audience. He explained, gently, that he had researched the genre in depth and would bring all the threads together in due course. Now that I’m through Chapter 8, I can see this happening and withdraw my objection.

It’s been a while since I was a teenager. But a few years ago. I was in Scotland with my pre-teen granddaughter Rebecca, a devoted Harry Potter fan. We drank cocoa together in the Edinburgh cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote her first chapters, and later the whole family rode north on the Hogwarts Express. Rebecca, I have realized, would have no trouble at all with Joe’s book.