Darton's first novel, a curious little dip into history and fantasy, is about the fall of a European city in the...



Darton's first novel, a curious little dip into history and fantasy, is about the fall of a European city in the Enlightenment period--told through the diary of an aging scientist. The diarist, 70 years old as he composes entries for 40 consecutive days, is well known because of his great skills as physician, experimenter, and inventor--most recently of a mechanical dragon and a flying ship (""Air Galleon""), both intended to be part of the approaching annual Festival that will once again commemorate his city's hard-earned and historic freedoms. This year, however, there are mounting threats, thanks to the presence in town of the mysterious, rich, and ambitious Roberto, who, in his uncontainable desire to stage a coup and become tyrant of the city, co-opts the narrator's skills for use both in armaments and in public relations. The good doctor, however, only appears to be in league with Roberto, having formed a secret alliance with Friedrich, the duck--yes, duck--who has been taught by the evil Roberto not only to speak but to be a truly brilliant orator, and who now presides regularly over the assembled Diet. Double-agent Friedrich flies over each morning with information for the doctor-diarist, who gradually becomes cognizant also of a strange power for good in his athletic lover Adela, who, when the city begins to fall, plays no small role in saving her aging lover and the good duck Friedrich from destruction. These entirely serious but Disneyesque activities might be more engaging if not dampened by the constraints of the diary form, along with its self-consciously elevated language of the ""period."" The story, admittedly, doesn't labor, but, as references pass by to Mercator, Bruno, Descartes, Kepler, Harvey, and Pascal, it--well, walks its way to a conclusion. Tongue-in-cheek historical tale that's intelligent, learned, and of good cheer--though the people (and ducks) in it remain curiously too thin to lend it the more compelling harmonies of life.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996


Page Count: 176

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996