An enchanted blank book-one that reveals its secrets, but "only for those with eyes to see them"-lies at the center of Skelton's ambitious first novel, which unfolds through two alternating narratives. The first, set in the present, follows young Blake, whose mother is a visiting academic at Oxford. One day he runs his finger across the spines of some books in the Bodleian Library, and one volume "[strikes] him back." The book's title, "Endymion Spring," begins to appear before his eyes, and he opens the cover only to find the contents blank-save for a riddle-like poem. The second thread of the tale, set in 15th-century Germany, is narrated by Endymion Spring, a boy serving as apprentice to the great Gutenberg, who is hard at work on his printing press. Gutenberg, eager for money to fund his Bible-printing project, strikes a deal with the "ruthless" Fust, who travels with a locked chest, adorned with gruesome imagery. Its hidden treasure represents a mystery with ties to both Blake's blank book and to Eden. With it, Fust seeks to create a book that will contain "all the secrets of the universe." Skelton's fiction breathes excitement into real history, as he exploits the fact that Johann Fust, Gutenberg's real-life patron, has been identified with Faust (as explained to Blake by a professor and to readers in an endnote). Riddles galore, a great cliffhanger and a film deal with Warner Bros. should generate plenty of excitement for this literary thriller; book lovers in particular will savor its palpable whiff of musty shelves and dusty volumes. Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Mary Ann Darby
While waiting in an Oxford library for his mother who is there researching Faust, Blake finds what appears to be a blank book bearing the title Endymion Spring. Why does the book seem to tug at him and belong in his hands despite appearing to be blank? A riddle appears in the book, and Blake's story is intertwined with Gutenberg's apprentice, Endymion Spring, who is forced to steal magically imbued blank sheets from a man named Fust to smuggle them to Oxford for safekeeping. Endymion's and Blake's stories unfold with riddles, mysterious passageways, evil greedmongers, and the quest to reunite all of the book's "blank" pages so that they can unfold their myriad stories free from those who would abuse the book's powers. Adding to the tension, Blake struggles with jealousy of his younger sister Duck, as well fear that his parents' marriage is in jeopardy. Blake fulfills his task, his parents reunite, but now what will Blake do with this magical book? Like the snake clasp on the book, this story will grip readers who are fans of Cornelia Funke's Inkspell (Scholastic, 2005/VOYA October 2005) and Philip Pullman's Golden Compass trilogy. Skelton seems to be hopping onboard The DaVinci Code bandwagon with mysterious riddles, medieval backstory, and villainous scholars, but there is a peppering of vocabulary that might bog down the intended young adult audience (Blake, an admittedly poor reader, talks about opening "a vast florilegium of knowledge"), while the family tensions disturbing Blake and Duck are inadequately developed. Although they are described as precocious, neither Duck's nor Blake's age is ever specified. But the story is compelling, and junior high students who enjoy this genrewill welcome this entry.
Children's Literature - Naomi Williamson
Slipping between the present day and the 1450s, the story follows two boys in very different worlds. Blake is visiting Oxford with his mother and sister, Duck, in the twenty-first century and Endymion Spring lives and works as Johann Gutenberg's apprentice in fifteenth-century Germany. In his own time, Endymion runs afoul of Johann Fust, Gutenberg's partner, when he steals some mysterious paper that forms itself into a book when he touches it. He is forced to flee to England and Oxford where he can hide the mysterious book endowed with magical powers. Linked by this magical book of blank pages, with print that can only be seen by those chosen by an unknown force, these two boys, whose lives are separated by more than five hundred years, provide the reader with a story of magic, mystery, and intrigue. While their mother works on her study of Faust, Blake and Duck, wandering in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, find a book that has no writing, or so they think. As Blake holds the book he begins to see words forming on pages that look like "thin, frosty panes of glass," but he is forced to quickly put the book on a shelf and when he returns for it the book is gone. This leads the children into the world of Academe where some members of the Ex Libris Society will do anything to find Endymion Spring's book. Already stressed by the evident breakup of their parent's marriage, the children have to cope with discovering the location of book and finding out who wants it and why. Their search takes them from the underground book storage areas of the Oxford libraries to the towers overlooking the streets below. From Gutenberg's printing press to digital books, Skelton has created an appealing andfascinating story for young adults that spans generations of book lovers. Filled with fantasy and historical fiction it will catch the reader's interest as they follow Blake and Duck on their adventure. The final pages of the story may leave you wonderingis there more to this story?
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-In 1452, a young printer's devil toils for his master, Herr Gutenberg, who is in the process of printing a Bible. On a suitably dark and cold night, sinister Johann Fust arrives at Gutenberg's shop with a mysterious wooden chest decorated with dragons and serpents' heads. In a parallel story set at Saint James College in Oxford in the present day, Blake, a professor's son, discovers a wordless book with the title Endymion Spring, which was the printer's devil's name. The present-day narrative and the story of Endymion Spring cleverly intertwine as Blake discovers that the book is the key to all of the world's knowledge. As Endymion lies hidden in Gutenberg's shop one night, Fust opens the wooden chest and, because of what Endymion learns, he is forced to flee. In an incredibly effective action scene, he eludes capture. Back in the present, Blake and his sister, Duck, find themselves pursued by a mysterious "Person in Shadow" and discover, as it leads them into the depths of the Bodleian Library, that Endymion Spring's book has a mind of its own. Even if the promise of the clearly intriguing premise is not quite fulfilled, this book is certain to reach an audience looking for a page-turner, and it just might motivate readers to explore the true facts behind the fiction.-Tim Wadham, Maricopa County Library District, Phoenix, AZ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
This thriller takes precocious children whose lives are disrupted by their parents' separation, surrounds them with untrustworthy, professionally jealous and personally greedy academics and drops them into a mystery involving an ancient book.
From the Publisher
“Wonderfully engaging, even addictive.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred
“Riddles galore, [and] a great cliffhanger should generate plenty of excitement for this literary thriller.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred
Read an Excerpt
Blake checked his watch—thirty-six minutes—and sighed.
He tried walking backwards now, tapping the books in reverse order, to see if this would help pass the time.
A series of stern-looking portraits glared down at him from the walls. Like magicians, they were dressed in dark capes and had sharp, pointy beards. Elaborate ruffs, like squashed chrysanthemums, burst from their collars. The older men had jaded eyes and tortoise-like skin, but there were also a few pale-faced boys like himself. He glanced at their nameplates: Thomas Sternhold (1587–1608); Jeremiah Wood (1534–1609); Isaac Wilkes (1616–37); Lucius St. Boniface de la Croix (1599–1666). Each man was holding a small book and pointing to a relevant passage with a forefinger, as though reminding future generations to remain studious and well-behaved.
Blake disregarded their frowns of disapproval and continued running his fingers along the books, rapping the spines with the back of his knuckles.
All of a sudden, he stopped.
One of the volumes had struck him back! Like a cat, it had taken a playful swipe at his fingers and ducked back into hiding. He whisked his hand away, as though stung.
He looked at his fingers, but couldn’t see anything unusual. They were smeared with dust, but there was no obvious mark or injury on his skin. Then he looked at the books to see which one had leaped out at him, but they all seemed pretty ordinary, too. Just row upon row of crumbly old volumes, like toy soldiers in leather uniforms standing to attention—except that one of them had tried to force its way into his hand.
He sucked on his finger thoughtfully. A thin trail of blood, like a paper cut, was forming where the book had nicked his knuckle.
All around him the library was sleeping in the hot, still afternoon. Shafts of sunlight hung in the air like dusty curtains and a clock ticked somewhere in the distance, a ponderous sound that seemed to slow down time. Small footsteps crept along the floorboards above. That was probably his sister, Duck, investigating upstairs. But no one else was around.
Only Mephistopheles, the college cat, a sinewy black shadow with claws as sharp as pins, was sunbathing on a strip of carpet near the window and he only cared about one thing: himself.
As far as Blake could tell, he was entirely alone. Apart, that is, from whatever was lurking on the shelf.
From the Hardcover edition.