The Book of Dead Daysby Marcus Sedgwick
THE DAYS BETWEEN Christmas and New Year’s Eve are dead days, when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our lives. A magician called Valerian must save his own life within those few days or pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. But alchemy and sorcery are no match against the demonic power pursuing him. Helping him is his servant, Boy, a child with no name and no past. The quick-witted orphan girl, Willow, is with them as they dig in death fields at midnight, and as they are swept into the sprawling blackness of a subterranean city on a journey from which there is no escape.
Praise for The Book of Dead Days:
“Beautifully paced and sometimes blood-soaked. . . . A very tangible sense of evil.”—The Guardian
“Subtle menace and power.”—The Independent
“Packed with drama, mystery, and intrigue.”—The Bookseller
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- Sales rank:
- File size:
- 257 KB
- Age Range:
- 10 Years
Read an Excerpt
It was obvious even from a distance that they were not the only ones working in the cemetery that night.
They came to a large tomb, and decided to hide behind it. Peeping around the side of the grave, they had a clear view of an unholy scene.
Three men were hard at work in a grave. A small glass lantern propped against a gravestone illuminated the scene. The shadows it cast were long and grim. Around them lay various tools, and beside them a mound of earth spoil was piled onto a large sheet of canvas. There was a spare shovel and an iron bar with a hooked end. And there was a large canvas bag with a lump inside it—a large, disturbing lump.
“Grave-robbers!” whispered Willow in alarm.
There was no sign of Valerian.
“Come on,” said Boy.
Willow ignored him, trying to work out what was wrong with the scene.
The figures in front of them were shoveling earth back into the grave. It was obvious what was in the large sack next to them on the grass.
“Wait,” said Willow. “They’re going. Let’s wait.”
“Let’s just find Valerian and get out of here.”
“In a minute. Look, they’re going.”
It was true. The men worked fast and as soon as they had finished it took them no more than a second or two to gather their things, including the hideous bag, and leave. They swung away into the night, straight down the center path of the cemetery, as bold as could be.
“He never could keep his nose out,” said one. Boy and Willow started at the sound of his voice. It was high and wavered like that of a dying man.
Boy thought he heard another of them laugh.
Willow meanwhile was scampering over to the grave.
Horrified, Boy hesitated by the tomb, unsure if it was more dangerous to follow or to stay where he was. A glance behind at the yawning rows of death in the darkness convinced him to move.
He caught up with Willow where she crouched on the grass by the grave.
“Willow,” pleaded Boy, “come on. Please. Let’s just—”
“Look,” she said. “You would hardly notice they’d been here. A bit of loose soil, but then if it was a new one it would look like that anyway.”
She nodded at the fresh grave.
“Boy,” she said, “what was wrong with what you just saw?”
Boy frowned at her, but it was wasted in the darkness.
“Apart from the fact they just stole somebody?” he asked, sarcastically.
“Exactly!” she said. “They stole somebody. Well?”
Boy shook his head and looked around, expecting the grave-robbers to return at any moment. He noticed a sickly light in the sky. It was still a fair time until dawn, but they could at least see more easily now.
“Look,” Willow said, “I’m not an expert on the ways of resurrection men, but why would they fill the grave back up once they’d taken the . . . you know?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “All right, so it’s strange, but could we find Valerian and discuss it at home?”
“Surely they’d just run—unless they needed to cover their tracks.”
“Or cover something up,” said Boy, despite himself.
“Or some . . . No, that’s too horrible.”
They were silent as they stared at the freshly turned soil at their feet. The daylight was coming stronger now, casting weak light across the vast sprawling area of decay around them.
“Did you hear . . . !” asked Willow.
Boy nodded, clenching his mouth tight shut and trying not to scream.
From the grave just by their feet, they could hear a faint ticking sound. It grew louder, became a knocking, regular, strong. Then stopped.
Boy and Willow clutched each other. The noise started again.
Then they understood, and both fell scratching and scrabbling madly at the loose pile of cold earth in front of them. Their hands were still numb and sore from their crawl across the cemetery.
They dug with clawlike hands until they were paws of mud, scraping up fist after fist of grave-earth, until finally, gasping and straining, they reached the lid of the box.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Marcus Sedgwick is the award-winning author of Floodland, Witch Hill, and The Dark Horse. The author lives in Sussex, England.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This was a great book and i read it in a day. The action kept the pages turning. I loved it until the ending. The ending was not good to me and I expected better, but this was still a very good book!
This book is amazing! It will take you on a thrilling journey. It will make you connect with all the characters at a level, because there is such a variety. I would recommend this book to anyone that loves a mystery, and suspense! Over all A GREAT BOOK!
It was super awesome! In the begining I didn't have a clue on wha was going on, but then from pretty much the begining to the end I had my eyes glued to the book. My mom thought I was sick or something because it's rare to see me so into to a book.
This story is very hard to get into in the beginning. I had to force myself to continue reading but when I continued reading it. I couldn't stop! Its really good, packed with the full frontal truth about betrayel and fate.
I had to get a book from the library at school and when i found this one the name of the book intrigued, i mean the Book Of Dead Days thats sure to grab anyones attention so i read the back of the book and i new i had to check it out. After i read the first chapter that night i coudnt put it down and and 2 hours later it was finished. I reecommend this book to anyone who wants mysteryand a book that will keep them hooked until its over. I cant wan to read the sequil
I was shopping at the book fair at my school and this book caught my eye. I looked at it and decided to buy it, along with the first volume of the manga, +Anima. As I read it, I couldn't stop. The whole mystery of why the magician, Valerian, was going to die really intrigued me to keep turning the pages. After reading it, I was left shocked at how the story ended. Recently for my Birthday, my brother bought the sequel, The Dark Fligght Down, which I can't wait to start. I definetly reccomend this book to someone who likes mystery, horror, and suspense. And this book sandwiches all that into one great tale of a boy and girl.
This is the only book I've ever read twice in a row because it is so unbelievably good! This book is so mysterious, I was hooked from the first sentence! I definitely recommend this book for anyone who really wants to be scared in the dark- and I have yet to read the sequel!
What actually got me reading this book was the author's signature, displayed so prominently on the book's cover. But after turning the first few pages, Marcus Sedgwick's fluid prose compelled me to stick around. The Dead Days, according to Egyptian and Aztec legend, are five days of ill omen. Sedgwick has chosen to stick them between Christmas and New Year's Eve for his purposes. And what a purpose it is. The bleak wintry setting provides a backdrop for a classically gothic set of characters--an abused apprentice, Boy his troubled but gifted master, Valerian the brilliant but enigmatic scientist Kepler (Is he or is he not the astronomer Johanes Kepler? This is only one of the novel's many unanswered questions...) and Willow, a girl who feels drawn to Boy for reasons she herself cannot explain. Boy has no past, and, as explained later on--too much so for my liking--he simply fell from the sky and into Valerian's life. He is a gentle person, and I felt empathy for him, but he was still depressingly one-note for most of the novel. Only at the end did he show the barest hint of complexity, but soon even that was shot to the wind--more on that later. The character interactions are plausible enough as the story meanders its way to the conclusion, but in light of the revelations at the end, not all makes sense. And the breakneck pace of the ending itself is a shock to the system after slogging through a lengthy and overall boring midsection. The plot overall is simplistic, and far too many character motivations are revealed only in the final chapters. The ending, though containing an ironic twist, is anti-climactic. And though the settings are described with delightfully bleak gothic imagery in the beginning and middle, it is replaced in the end by the sudden need to advance the plot--which is a shame, because his descriptions are so vivid and so alive that the mist on the streets grips you, and the rotting stench of trash in the alleys is nearly enough to make you retch. In the end, the book works. It just doesn't work as well as it should. From subplots barely mentioned and never again dealt with((the Phantom from the first fifty or so pages is never heard from again after a shocking first appearance)) to the uneven pacing to the only half-developed characters, this book disappoints. There is, it should be noted, a sequel to this book, called The Dark Flight Down. It would do well to keep up with the gothic imagery and descriptive prose, and do without the rushed third act.
i thought this book was so awsome! it was never dull!!
This book is insanely awesome it will have you at the edge of your seat!!!!
this book was very mysterious and suspenseful. i really loved this book and i cant wait for the next one to come out. im a big fan of fantasy and this is one you definitly want to read. i love the characters and the storyline.
This is an excellent story. I am a lover of the magic and mystery type books and this was very satisfying, but before starting, you should know that this is only book one in a trilogy!! I bought this book in England where book two is now available, but I had no idea that this one wasn't even coming out till now!! It is an awesome book, but BEWARE!! It will leave you craving much, much MORE!