Six kids—three from the modern-day United States, three from Venice in the late Middle Ages—struggle to right ancient wrongs in this engaging fantasy adventure.
American siblings Jared and Shireen and their younger sister, Miranda, are two months into their semesterlong stay in Venice. There while their university-professor father does research, the excitement of living abroad has grown old. After they accept presents and an ancient book from an elderly Venetian bookseller, they are compelled by the magic in the gifts and the story in the book to rescue the other three—Rashid, Francesca and Maria—from the clutches of an unbalanced and fanatical monk. Interspersed “translations” from the gift book provide a vague historical setting and keep the plot moving while producing maximum suspense and excitement. Mystery and anticipation build to the very end of the story, much of it caused by wondering if the clueless American parents will discover their children’s nightly absences. The occasional false note—some didacticism and weaknesses in the fantasy mechanics—will not bother young readers; the action and exotic creatures will keep them engrossed in the story. Having teen characters as well as younger girls may help attract a broad audience of genre fans.
A likable fantasy, the author’s first for children. (black-and-white spot art; not seen) (Fantasy. 10-14)