Gidwitz strikes literary gold with this mirthful and compulsively readable adventure story set in medieval France.
In a style reminiscent of The Canterbury Tales, this multiple-narrator fairy tale relates the adventures of Jeanne, a white Christian peasant girl who has prophetic visions; biracial white/black William, a Muslim-born monk-in-training with preternatural strength; and Jacob, a Jewish boy with incredible healing powers. While some townspeople hail them as saints for their gifts, other, narrow-minded Christians drive the children from their homes on a journey that takes them from the church of Saint Denis to a confrontation with Louis IX and his mother in Paris. While the three protagonists initially come together out of necessity, the heartwarming friendship they form celebrates a common humanity that transcends the bounds of race, religion, and social class. The author creates a richly designed medieval world, filled with imperious knights, farting dragons, foreboding forests, and soulless fiends, in which nothing is as it seems, including the tellers of the tales. As the story grows darker and more intricate, the dubious cast of narrators lends greater complexity to the sequence of events, forcing readers to question everything that they believe regarding each character’s exploits. Gidwitz’s lighthearted touch nonetheless provides for insightful commentary on the dangers of narrow-mindedness and zealotry that will resonate with modern readers.
A masterpiece of storytelling that is addictive and engrossing. (Fantasy. 11 & up)