Cover illustration by Laurel Long.
It’s 1491 in the small Italian kingdom of Pergamontio. Fabrizio, a twelve-year-old servant boy to Mangus the Magician answers a knock on the door of their humble home one stormy night to find that Mangus has been summoned to the royal castle. Mangus does magic of the stage trickery kind, but recently he was arrested and tried for witchcraft. Since then, his career in ruins, Magnus and his wife, and Fabrizio, have been struggling to survive. A summons to the castle can’t be good news. Fabrizio is determined to go with the old man and help him however he can.
It turns out the King and his chief advisor, the powerful Count Scarazoni, want Mangus’s help and advice with a family problem. The King’s daughter, Princess Teresina, has been seeing a ghost at midnight in the hallway near her bedroom, and declares it an omen of dread, and perhaps a sign from her missing older brother. The King, who is superstitious, wants Mangus to investigate and prove the ghost is some kind of trick. Count Scarazoni wants the same thing, as he has convinced the King to agree to his marriage to Teresina, but the King will not allow the wedding until the ghost problem is solved.
Magnus and Fabrizio take up residence in the castle, and are soon embroiled in all kinds of court intrigue. Teresina befriends Fabrizio, and together the two of them see her ghost. It’s very convincing, but Mangus remains sure it can’t be real. Before long, Fabrizio is haunting the castle himself at night, using the many secret passages shown him by Teresina…until the first murder happens. Then Fabrizio is arrested and thrown into the dungeon. Who will help him now, and who will help his master, Mangus?
An excellent read with great characters and a plot and story worthy of the stage, full of clever turns and witty dialogue. I’ve only read a few books by Avi (pen name for Edward Irving Wortis), and enjoyed all of them. I should look for more, and I will.