It might seem obvious, because we've seen it done many times in books and movies, but it strikes me that this is a very sophisticated way to think for a 12-year-old. He's painted broad strokes of universal conflict and within that setting given us characters we can relate to.
I think that's why the best science fiction and fantasy works: we're placed into a world that is completely alien, but quickly provided with characters we understand and care about. It's brilliant, really, and the more I think about it, the more impressed I am with how the author pulled it off.
He also illustrated the novel with some wicked-cool ink drawings, and designed the cover. This is the second book in a series he has planned, and I think he really loves the world he's creating. One of the main protagonists is named after himself, so I suspect he dwells in this world of his often!