Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Book of Answers

The Book of Answers
by A.L. Tait
Recommended Ages: 12+

Gabe is a novice from a monastery who is on the run, accused of stealing a book that powerful men would kill to possess – but that, apparently, no one can read. He has been joined on his adventure by a band of merry men who are secretly girls: sisters Merry and Gwyn, who rob the rich and give to the poor while plotting to spring their wrongly imprisoned pa; their cousin Scarlett, a runaway child-bride; and tiny Midge, who has an uncanny ability to communicate with animals. Then there's Eddie, who claims to be a royal prince, victim of a conspiracy to replace him with an impostor. Together they've had some thrilling adventures before this book even begins, but their perils have only just begun.

After traveling to the furthest edge of the kingdom with their enemies in pursuit, the youngsters only learn enough about the book Gabe carries to be really concerned. Apparently, if it falls into the wrong hands, it could unleash terrible powers on the world. And now, it's Gabe's responsibility to protect it. Gabe finds all his certainties, moral and otherwise, put to the test as he, Eddie, and the girls do what seems necessary to survive and fight back against bad people who hold all the game pieces. There's the crooked Prior Dismas, from the abbey that was all Gabe knew until recently, who will abuse all that is holy to seek the book. There's Whitmore, the captain of the royal guard, who has turned against the king and his rightful heir. There's the ruthless Lord Sherborne, who controls the district around Gabe's abbey, and whose heavy taxes are reducing the peasants to starvation. And there's the cruel sheriff, Ronan, who salivates at the prospect of torture and death.

These are bad enemies to have against you, but Gabe also finds he has more friends in his corner than he expected, and they're the ones who really count. Gwyn can go wherever she wants, undetected. Merry laughs at danger and can shoot an arrow with legendary accuracy. Midge can get her trained hawk to do anything she wants with just a whistle. And even the pampered Scarlett and the royal Edward have their qualities, now and then – qualities that, in the end, will be needed to keep the kids' necks out of nooses and to stop the bad guys from making off with the kingdom.

It's a youthful yet old-fashioned adventure, set in medieval times, featuring kids who (mostly) aren't cut out to accept the way their world is rigged to work. Gabe, who of the lot of them has the most difficulty turning rebel against the values he was raised under, discovers unexpected resources within himself while remaining essentially faithful to his values. And the appealing young heroes are really put to the ultimate test before it becomes apparent how, or if, they will prevail.

This is the second of two "Ateban Cipher" books, the sequel to The Book of Secrets. Australian writer A.L. (Allison) Tait has also published four "Mapmaker Chronicles" books and The Fire Star.

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