Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Martin Booth

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-316-15575-6
Publisher: Little, Brown

Booth draws heavily on old alchemical texts, herb lore, and lurid accounts of witchly deeds for this chiller, but neglects to link it all with a coherent story. Shortly after moving into a restored 15th-century home, twins Pip and Tim meet Sebastian, a young Christian alchemist from the distant past who can travel down the centuries, change shape, and perform other eldritch acts. He announces that Pierre de Loudéac, a colleague gone bad, is also still around, and on the verge of creating a homunculus for unspecified mischief. For never-explained reasons, de Loudéac zeroes in on Pip, snatching bits of blood, hair, and skin while visiting gory apparitions upon both children whenever the plot needs goosing, and putting in occasional personal appearances—in various guises, but ever recognizable by his odor of “sweat, wine, and cheesy feet.” Not even the occasional flayed cat, severed human leg, or whirl of inter-dimensional travel compensates for the tale’s logical gaps and clumsy contrivances; some of the former, at least, may be bridged in the upcoming sequel, but even optimistic readers may be hard-put to believe it. (Fiction. 11-13)