© Estate of Lloyd Alexander, illustration © Greg Spalenka.
Lloyd Alexander’s writing career of novels for children was a long one, and even his later books are full of charm and skillful storytelling. This one is no exception.
Lidi is a young girl with an unusual occupation. She’s a traveling magician, carrying on a family tradition, with her formidable wagonmaster Jericho, and Daniella, a young orphan girl with apparent powers of prophecy. It’s far from the glamorous life it appears, though, as the troupe is constantly facing trouble from townsmen, robbers and politicians who want what little they have. Lidi herself is on a quest to find the renowned magician Ferramondo, who she hopes will teach her his famous Rope Trick, one that no other magician has been able to duplicate. Lidi knows it would make her fortune, but everyone has stories about Ferramondo, and they can’t all be true, so how to find him? Taking place in a sort of mediaeval fantasy Italy, this book is full of great characters and clever storylines that never stop for long, just as the troupe is always off to a new place and a new adventure. When they finally seem to be closing in on Ferramondo, Lili is caught by her worst enemy, and things are looking grim indeed. Will her magic be enough to save them?
The magic in this story is largely stage magic, but there is an element of subtle fantasy that weaves through it and comes on strong at the end, making for a fascinating if unusual ending. I had a fine time with this book, and it’s highly recommended.