Thirteen year old Sybil is servant to an old alchemist, Thorston, who plans to steal her ?life's breath? to grow young again. Fortunately for Sybil, Thorston dies before he can carry out his plan. Unfortunately, dying is part of the process! He comes back to life. Meanwhile, two other young boys become involved, one hoping to steal the book that he mistakenly believes holds the secret of gold-making (alchemy) and the other is an orphan recruited by the local sheriff to steal the gold. Sybil is begrudgingly aided by a talking Raven, Odo, and persued by a mysterious old monk.
I picked up this book based on Avi's great reputation. He rocks when it comes to building real worlds with his words, and this is certainly true here. His medieval town is dark and wet and gothic and foggy, just like you expect it to be! Unfortunately, it does not immerse you as much as some of his other books because there is a lot of jumping around in narrative. In a movie, the plot can jump around a bunch and I can still get into it. In a book, all that jumping interrupts the flow for me. This book was also a bit like a simple roller coaster. There was a long time at the beginning where there was a lot of setting up but it felt pretty slow. Then all of a sudden, a whole bunch of things were happening really fast! Then it was over! It was not a good finish for Avi. But, the worst Avi book is better than the best books of most other authors! It was a short, easy read, and if you are into Avi or medieval stories, I would recommend this book to you.