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The Book of Dead Days    by Marcus Sedgwick order for
Book of Dead Days
by Marcus Sedgwick
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Marcus Sedgwick pens a premium tale set in eighteenth century Europe in a place of the author's creation. The 'Dead Days' between Christmas and New Year's Eve are taken from the ancient Egyptians' calendar of 360 days. They dedicated the extra five days to Thoth, god of wisdom. The Aztecs named the five days, the 'Dead Days', 'when roaming spirits and shifting magic occur'.

Magician Valerian performs his illusions at the Great Theater in the Arts Quarter, a run-down section of a once great City. Crowds are drawn to these bleak surroundings to watch Valerian perform the 'Fairyland Vanishing Illusion'. Boy (who has no knowledge of whence he came) was taken off the streets to be Valerian's assistant. Some fifteen years before, Valerian made a pact with spirits that 'transcend time and space' in return for wealth and power. His time of settlement approaches. To save himself, he seeks a special book. An orphan girl named Willow joins Boy and Valerian in pursuit of the book. A long-time friend of the magician, inventor Kepler, also searches for it. When several City residents are murdered, Boy and Willow are found at the scene and jailed by 'The Watch'. Valerian helps them to escape and participate in the search for the book, leading to harrowing escapades under the streets of the City. The author's language lends the story a constant sense of foreboding, as he describes the bleak weather and squalor of the decaying City.

This story is a marvel of exceptional settings (particularly the haunting cemetery and underground tunnel scenes), swift-paced action and suspense. The author has also written Floodland, Witch Hill, and The Dark Horse. I highly recommend his books.

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