Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE WAGER by Donna Jo Napoli

THE WAGER

By Donna Jo Napoli

Age Range: 13 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-8050-8781-9
Publisher: Henry Holt

After suffering a reversal of fortune, a handsome young nobleman enters into a dangerous wager with the Devil, surrendering his beauty and possibly his very soul to win a magical purse in this retelling of an old Sicilian fairy tale. Known for his “generosity of spirit and purse,” 19-year-old Don Giovanni becomes a reviled pauper after an earthquake and tsunami devastate Messina in 1169. Forced to beg from town to town, Don Giovanni’s situation is desperate when the Devil cunningly offers him a magical purse if he does not wash himself, change his clothes, shave his beard or comb his hair for three years, three months and three days. Determined to keep the purse and save his soul, Don Giovanni suffers unbearable misery and derision as his physical being degenerates while his inner being transforms. While Napoli’s interspersing of historical events and natural descriptions adds verisimilitude to the fairy tale, the graphic details of Don Giovanni’s physical and psychic anguish stretch credulity. No hero ever deserved a happy ending or a bath more. (Fantasy. 13 & up)