THE BOOK WITHOUT WORDS by Avi

THE BOOK WITHOUT WORDS

A Fable of Medieval Magic
by
Age Range: 11 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Avi’s fable (as the subtitle and an author’s note would have it) is an uneasy amalgam of medieval alchemy, Northumbrian magic and saint lore from the early northern Church that never quite achieves solidity. The aged alchemist Thorston’s sole desire and lifelong quest has been to discover—using the magical tome of the title—how not to die, and he plans to use the lives of his talking crow Odo and servant girl Sybil to get what he wants. An old monk determined to see the magical book buried, a young orphan, a greedy apothecary’s apprentice and a law-and-order reeve (named Bashcroft, one supposes, after a certain 21st-century counterpart) complete the circle around Thorston and his dark plans. Avi’s rich evocation of a superstitious early 11th-century world of dank smells and dire poverty of body and soul is compact and powerfully rendered. Characters engage in poetic, nearly comedic plays on words and verbal contemplation of their place in a world seemingly run by fate and stronger forces. But the conclusion, including the apprentice’s disturbing end and Thorston’s cinematic comeuppance, seems thin and foregone—what seemed at first like gold is more like sand. (Fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-7868-0829-2
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Hyperion
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2005




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