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THE TEARS OF THE SALAMANDER by Peter Dickinson Kirkus Star


by Peter Dickinson

Age Range: 11 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-73098-5
Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

In the wake of Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits (2002), co-authored with Robin McKinley, Dickinson offers an extended tale braided with fire. Orphaned by a sudden, inexplicable blaze, young Alfredo is swept up by his previously distant uncle Giorgio, who turns out to be a sorcerer, living on the slopes of Mount Etna with only mute Annetta and her mentally disabled son Antonio as despised servants. Claiming to be training Alfredo as his successor, Giorgio reveals that he not only controls Etna’s huge inner fires, but has captured a salamander, a creature of those fires, whose excreta are solid gold and whose tears are a remedy for any malady save death. And he hints that he’s working on even that. But Alfredo, whose intelligence is matched only by his talent and love for singing, gradually comes to realize that Giorgio is the agent of his family’s immolation, that Annetta and Toni are more than they seem, and that he himself is slated not to inherit, but fall victim to his uncle’s magic. Complex characters, spectacular magical and natural outbursts, taut plotting, and atmospheric writing unite in a coruscating exhibition of storytelling. (Fiction. 11-13)