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The Dark Flight Down    by Marcus Sedgwick order for
Dark Flight Down
by Marcus Sedgwick
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2005 (2004)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

It is only days after the death of Boy's master, Valerian. His new master Kepler has separated him from Willow, placing her in an orphanage. Once a resident of the streets, before Valerian took him in, he knows no other name but Boy, and yearns for the truth of his past. He and Willow make plans to meet, escape from Kepler, and begin a new life together. But, the meeting is not to be.

On his new master's orders, Boy trudges through heavy snow to Valerian's house to retrieve a specific lens. As he looks for signs of Watchmen, Boy is accosted by Imperial Guards, who pilfer Valerian's possessions, taking Boy as well. Emperor Frederick III is eighty-years of age, with no successor. Many citizens believe him dead, as he is never seen outside the castle. Head guardsman Maxim, the Emperor's right-hand man, tells his liege what he wants to hear. The Emperor, who craves immortality, insists daily that Maxim 'find an answer soon', but to what? Maxim asks Boy questions about Valerian and a certain book, and imprisons him. In the dank darkness, Boy realizes there is another person in the dungeon. He hears a familiar song, ending 'So dance, my dears, dance, / Before you take the dark flight down.'

Boy uses his lockpick to leave his cell, and locates the other prisoner, a doctor named Bedrich, who once knew Valerian. Bedrich tells how the book came to be in the castle, and of a family named Beebe (a name that Boy remembers). When Willow and Kepler seek Boy in Valerian's house, they recognize a feather from an Imperial Guardsman's uniform. Willow and Kepler enter the palace, disguised as magicians. But 'Despite the late, late hour, not everyone in the palace was asleep ... farther down into the palace's guts, a tall figure robed in red made his way back from the dungeons.' This mysterious Phantom has killed again, and despite the deep snow, citizens linger on the streets and talk of it, 'Bits of the body were missing ... The same as the others.'

Though a companion to The Book of Dead Days, Marcus Sedgwick's The Dark Flight Down is a story in itself, a superbly-written tale of revelations, obscured memories, broken futures, deceit and treachery. It's filled with horror and delight, with characters who capture the heart. Just when readers expect answers on the following page, Sedgwick proves them wrong, in one of those great stories that haunt and taunt, making it difficult to put the book down.

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