Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Jewel of the Kalderash

The Jewel of the Kalderash
by Marie Rutkoski
Recommended Ages: 12+

In the finale of the Kronos Chronicles trilogy, young thief Neel of the magic fingers becomes king of all the Roma - don't call them gypsies! But little in his experience has prepared him to survive repeated assassination attempts, heal the rivalries between the four Roma clans, and resolve the controversy over what to do with the twin Terrestrial and Celestial Globes, which control safe travel through a worldwide network of wormhole-like rifts. Meanwhile Bohemia's king, Prince Rodolfo - youngest son of the Hapsburg Emperor Karl - plots to put himself on the throne of much of Europe, even if it means murdering his father and two older brothers. John Dee, a magician and spy in the service of Queen Elizabeth I of England, maneuvers himself into a position of great advantage. And our strong-willed heroine Petra, who most unusually has two magical gifts (metal-magic and mind-magic), travels to a country where there is a price on her head, pursuing one desperate hope: that she can persuade the evil sorceress Fiala Broshek to restore her father, whom she has turned into one of Rodolfo's monstrous Gray Men.

These ingredients gel nicely into an adventure that buzzes with intrigue, chills with horror, squeezes the heart with grief, and sizzles with excitement. Author Rutkoski finally makes a virtue of the sometimes annoying aspects of Petra's character, as she knowingly puts herself in a danger that makes one's breath stand still, commits herself to an irrevocable sacrifice, and finds herself carried helplessly into a scene of astounding violence.

This is a story featuring youthful characters - several of them about 14 or 15 years old - but the danger, the carnage, and the truly sickening evil they must face, call for readers of a rather mature fiber. This book will be most successful, also, with thoughtful young readers, who might take an interest in whimsically re-mixed details of authentic 16th-century European history, with the most bizarre, quasi-magical threads in the storyline picked out in brilliant colors. Mystery, humor, espionage, warfare, political rebellion, the do's and don'ts of ruling a kingdom, and the charm of a talking mechanical spider have all their rich possibilities shaken out of them. But there are also some nasty shocks, which the reader will feel right alongside the characters who survive them.

Rutkoski is also the author of the "Winner's" trilogy and The Shadow Society. Judging by the publication dates of her books, she seems to have more teen-friendly fantasy adventures in her. Look out for them.

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