From Publishers Weekly
The undercurrent of melancholy running beneath (and occasionally bursting to the surface of) this fanciful tale makes it as memorable as Alexander's previous Chronicles of Prydain and Westmark trilogy. After the death of her bitter and unkind father, Lidi continues on with the family trade, roaming the towns of Campania (a fictional land resembling pre-unification Italy) performing magic tricks and sleight-of-hand. The author once again proves his gift for summing up a situation in a few potent phrases. For instance, when Lidi first began to outperform her father, he tried to hit her and tell her she's "best at nothing"; the narrative follows with, "She could dodge the blows but not the words." Lidi and her loyal canvasmaster, Jericho, are joined by Daniella, an orphan with a knack for predicting the future, and Julian, a handsome rebel with a price on his head. As her troupe travels, Lidi pursues her dream of learning the rope trick-the most legendary trick of all-from Ferramondo, an enigmatic magician who is described differently by each person who has met him. Meanwhile, as a delicately etched romance takes shape between Lidi and Julian, sinister forces conspire to thwart the happiness of the stalwart performers. Alexander deftly entwines many strands-bitter, funny and sweet. Even as the outsize characterizations and rollicking adventure amuse, the compassionate vision of life's possibilities is likely to bring a lump to the throat. Ages 8-12.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-7-Ever a wizard with words, Alexander imbues this tale of a young magician on a quest with whiffs of mystery-though he concludes with an abrupt bit of literary legerdemain that reads as if he ran out of steam. Impelled by the failures of her father, copper-tressed Lidi is determined to become the greatest of magicians, which means tracking down elusive master magician, Ferramondo, and persuading him to part with the secret of his fabled Rope Trick. The search takes Lidi, along with her hulking, fatherly roustabout Jericho; Daniella, a small child who seems to have a real ability to foretell the future; and Julian, a fugitive cafone (tenant farmer), wandering through several provinces of Italy, er, "Campania," before falling afoul of a ruthless moneylender, Scabbia. The author relates his tale economically (a blessing in these days of doorstopper fantasies), using short but telling sentences, keeping the cast's size relatively small, and drawing readers into his characters with deft hints of their thoughts and mental states. [...] Several seemingly miraculous transformations in the story's course seem to point toward further adventures, but it's hard to see what they might be after this summary resolution. Still, even a patchy tale from this master storyteller makes the general run of historical fantasy look clumsy.John Peters, New York Public Library
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.