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miss_tibbles July 29th, 2007 11:12 AM PST
The first book of the "Westmark" trilogy for young adults.
Theo, a young orphan, works as a printer's apprentice in a small town. When his master's business is ruined by the men of the power-hungry chief minister, Cabbarus, and the printer himself is killed, Theo flees into the countryside. He meets up with a travelling salesman, Count Las Bombas, and his dwarf assistant Musket. Realising that the Count is a con-man, but having no one else to turn to, Theo travels with them and takes part in their schemes. They meet a young beggar girl, Mickle, who has an extraordinary ability to mimic voices and is a skilled ventriloquist. The Count uses her skills in another of his money-making plots, presenting her as an oracle capable of communicating with the dead. Theo starts to care for Mickle, but cannot live with the dishonesty of the Count's lifestyle, and chooses instead to leave the group and find his own way. When he meets Florian, a rebel leader intent on bringing down the monarchy, Theo once again joins a group whose principles he's not sure he agrees with. But when he discovers that the Count, Musket and Mickle have been arrested by Cabbarus, Theo needs Florian's help to rescue them.
I quite enjoyed this book. Although I don't really like Alexander's style and his characters tend to be two-dimensional and stereotypical stock characters, I found the plot of this book gripping and the setting (a sort of pseudo-European country of the 1700s or thereabouts) very well-realised.
It is probably aimed at 12-16 year olds, but anyone who enjoyed Alexander's Black Cauldron books will enjoy this too.
It is followed by "The Kestral" and "The Beggar Queen".