The nature of luck, fortune and fate is dissected and reexamined over the course of this outstanding novel.
Born with only one ear, Luc considers his lot in life distinctly unlucky. His father hates him, seemingly without reason, so when the chance arises to apprentice with a local fisherman, the boy leaps at it. Living with the fisherman’s family he grows close to their ward, the beautiful Beatrice, and things seem to be looking up… until he’s kidnapped by pirates and sold to a Tunisian in North Africa. While Luc receives an education from his learned master, Beatrice looks into Luc’s past and discovers that he is the discarded son of a particularly vicious count. Though the plot falls into familiar territory—a hero discovers his true parentage—Leeds sets the book up as more of a historical conspiracy tale. Indeed, Beatrice’s attempts to unravel the truth reveal the dead count’s vast cover-up, unknown to even Luc's brother. Leeds writes delicately, fleshing out each character as a fully realized human being. Set in 15th-century France and Tunisia, the book is also meticulously researched, throwing readers into a past that feels fresh and new.
Engaging from the very first page, this is one work of historical fiction that will have even readers who prefer fantasy clamoring for a sequel. (Historical fiction. 9-12)