From School Library Journal
Grade 6-8–This gripping 17th-century odyssey takes 12-year-old Filippo Veroneo from Venice to Hindustan. He has never seen his father, a jeweler, who left before his birth. Now the Veroneos are in the clutches of their guardian, Bernardo Pagliarin, Filippo's brother-in-law who is trying to gain the family's wealth, most especially an extremely valuable diamond. The Veroneos learn that a high ransom is needed to secure the jeweler's release from prison, and Filippo goes to Hindustan with the diamond surgically hidden in his skull, a rather sophisticated procedure for the time. Gavin has created fascinating, multidimensional characters whose actions and motives remain suspicious through much of the story. Only Pagliarin is one-dimensional, being a thoroughly evil character solely interested in power and wealth. The rich prose at times borders on poetry, and the author cleverly parallels the protagonist's adventure to that of Ulysses as she intersperses quotes from Homer spoken by the grandmother of Filippo's friend Andreas. This is well-researched historical fiction but it does include some element of fantasy; the diamond endows Filippo with a sixth sense. As a storytelling device, it helps to keep all of his problems in focus as the scene shifts back and forth between the journey route and Venice. Strong readers will find this challenging, unpredictable tale absorbing and rewarding.–Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
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Gr. 7-10. Spanning continents from Europe to Arabia to the Mogul Empire, this powerful historical fantasy begins with a child's search for his father. In seventeenth-century Venice, 12-year-old Fillipo's family has been charged with delivering a priceless diamond to Hindustan, where the father Fillipo has never known, a jeweler, is being held captive. Fillipo's adventure takes him on perilous crossings of seas and deserts, and into the equally perilous courts of Mogul kings and Afghan lords. He is helped by visions and magic, and by devoted, and sometimes unlikely, friends. Gavin's ambitious, wide-reaching novel makes challenging references to classical mythology (excerpts from Homer appear), shifts viewpoints abruptly (Fillipo occasionally narrates), and includes a crowded cast--all of which may slow some readers. But readers drawn to epic adventures will be richly rewarded by sumptuous, cinematic detail and the thrilling, dangerous ques, as well as deeper questions of trust and family bonds: "Will I love him?" Fillipo wonders in anticipation of meeting the father he has never seen. An accomplished, lyrical, high-reaching novel that will stay with readers. Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved