THE DAYS BETWEEN Christmas and New Year’s Eve are dead days, when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our lives. A magician called Valerian must save his own life within those few days or pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. But alchemy and sorcery are no match against the demonic power pursuing him. Helping him is his servant, Boy, a child with no name and no past. The quick-witted orphan girl, Willow, is with them as they dig in death fields at midnight, and as they are swept into the sprawling blackness of a subterranean city on a journey from which there is no escape.
Praise for The Book of Dead Days:
“Beautifully paced and sometimes blood-soaked. . . . A very tangible sense of evil.”—The Guardian
“Subtle menace and power.”—The Independent
“Packed with drama, mystery, and intrigue.”—The Bookseller
The characters in Sedgwick's (The Dark Horse) gothic chiller lurk in darkened theaters, alleyways and graveyards. The novel centers around a charlatan who years ago made a deal with a devil and whose time is almost up. Valerian runs the magic show in the Great Theater, along with his assistant, an orphan he calls Boy, useful chiefly "because of his expertise at squeezing into ridiculously small spaces," to help with the magical illusions. As the unspecified year ("somewhere in the second half of the eighteenth century" writes the author in his introduction) draws to a close, violence begins to erupt the owner of the theater is killed in gruesome fashion, and slowly Boy learns that Valerian is hiding a dark secret and evading a hellhound on his trail. The man's wisdom and magical prowess, it turns out, were bequeathed 15 years ago in a deal for his soul, a deal which is about to come due, during the "dead days" of the title (the stretch between Christmas and New Year's). The leisurely setup immerses readers in the delectably eerie surroundings (the book is two-thirds finished before Valerian begins to spill some of his secrets); those eager for action may grow impatient. But Sedgwick's atmosphere is so well rendered, the fog on the cobblestone streets so tangibly thick, that most will likely get caught up in this exotic era and its creepy characters. Ages 10-up.