Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Celestial Globe

The Celestial Globe
by Marie Rutkoski
Recommended Ages: 12+

When evil Prince Rodolfo of Bohemia discovers the persons responsible for plundering his Cabinet of Wonders were clockmaker's daughter Petra and her gypsy friend Neel, he sends his Gray Men - monsters created from the corpses of condemned criminals - to arrest Petra, or worse. But she is saved by her mental connection with John Dee, a magician and spy in the service of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Her friend Tomik runs to her rescue too late, finding the headless corpses of four Gray Men and a magical rift leading to a beach in Portugal, where he is abducted by sea gypsies who plan to sell him into slavery. Luckily, Tomik befriends Neel, who is on board their ship. Unluckily, Petra finds herself stuck in England, worried sick about her father and forced to learn magic from Dee, sword-fighting from an untrustworthy scamp named Kit, and the identity of a murderer who has stuck within the queen's inner circle. Her bargain with Dee is that if she solves the murder before he does, she can go back to Bohemia.

Meantime, back on board the Pacolet, Tomik has earned a position of trust among the sea-gypsies. But his search for Petra has gotten mixed up with the gypsies' search for an artifact called the Celestial Globe, which is crucial for exploiting all the rifts that lead magically from one side of the world to another. In the wrong hands, it could be a weapon of unthinkable power. In the gypsies' hands, it might mean salvation for their downtrodden brethren in scattered lands. But they aren't the only ones looking for it. Dee and the queen want it in England. Rodolfo and his minions want it in Bohemia. And someone has already proven willing to murder for it. When the resourceful young heroes of this book finally get together in a final search for the globe, it will be just on time to be caught between all the other forces in play.

This story has a lot of exciting action and fascinating historical details. The character of John Dee is intriguing, and the developing relationship between Tomik and Neel was fun to watch. Petra's familiar, a talking mechanical spider named Astrophil, is really a marvelous creation. The only thing about this book that irritated me was, frankly, the character of Petra. I found her chronically hard to sympathize with - negative, bad-tempered, sharp-tongued, and a little historically anachronistic. I kept feeling sympathy for the people she was antagonizing - with a couple of exceptions. What I didn't feel was chemistry between her and either Tomik or Neel; I had to take their word for it on their feelings for her. I guess it is possible for a strong-willed character to come on too strong. But with that reservation, I had fun reading this book, and immediately picked up its sequel.

This is the second book of the Kronos Chronicles trilogy, between The Cabinet of Wonders and The Jewel of the Kalderash. Rutkoski's other fiction includes the more recent Winner's Trilogy, comprising The Winner's Curse, The Winner's Crime, and The Winner's Kiss, and the stand-alone novel The Shadow Society. A sometime lecturer at Harvard with a Ph.D. from that university, she has actually lived in Prague - a fact that perhaps influenced her depiction of the historic city in this series.

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