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Grimpow: The Invisible Road

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GRIMPOW HAD NO idea who the dead man was, but hidden in his leather bag was a treasure that would change his life forever. Ruby and emerald encrusted daggers, silver coins, jewels, and a letter with a golden seal depicting a snake swallowing its own tail. And clutched in the man's firm grip - a stone. A stone that will shape Grimpow's destiny. For when he holds it, strange things begin to happen. Visions of places he's never been fill his mind and he's able to read the strange ...
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Overview

GRIMPOW HAD NO idea who the dead man was, but hidden in his leather bag was a treasure that would change his life forever. Ruby and emerald encrusted daggers, silver coins, jewels, and a letter with a golden seal depicting a snake swallowing its own tail. And clutched in the man's firm grip - a stone. A stone that will shape Grimpow's destiny. For when he holds it, strange things begin to happen. Visions of places he's never been fill his mind and he's able to read the strange language in the letter, a message meant for someone else entirely.

So begins Grimpow's journey with the stone - a centuries-long journey that has driven sane men crazy, turned peaceful men violent, and made strong men powerless. No man has ever unlocked its secrets. But no boy has ever tried.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

With his rich and melodious intonations, veteran voice actor McGonagle vivifies a wide variety of characters in this historical fantasy set in 14th-century Europe. The far labyrinthine plot encompasses Knights Templars (declared heretics by the pope), a strange stone with remarkable powers and a youth named Grimpow. From his home in a remote corner of France, Grimpow sets out to find the meaning of the stone and is faced with centuries-old mysteries and arcane riddles, with the fate of humanity possibly in the balance. Fans of epic fantasy sagas like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings will be mesmerized, especially given McGonagle's energetic and enthusiastic narration. Utilizing subtle variations of cadence and inflection, he creates a diversity of voices, including the naïve Grimpow; the fanatical inquisitor monk, Bulvar; and the old abbey librarian, Rinaldo. His deep tones will have listeners envisioning themselves sitting around a blazing campfire in the presence of a sagacious storyteller. Ages 12-up. Simultaneous release with the Delacorte hardcover (Reviews, Oct. 29). (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Lynne Farrell Stover
The Renaissance is approaching when young Grimpow leaves his fourteenth-century medieval village with the rascal Durlib. Their vagabond life is transformed when they discover the body of a Templar Knight in the snow. Clutched in this nobleman's fist is the legendary philosopher's stone. Grimpow discovers that this remarkable relic allows him to read, have great insight, and change lead into gold. After a period of study in an abbey, Grimpow leaves with the gallant Salietti of Estaglia. Together they search for the "secret of the wise." During their perilous journey, they rescue the beautiful Weienell who joins them. The three find themselves in dire straits at the Circle of Stone where Grimpow and Weienell are trapped in a sealed chamber and Salietti is engaged in a bloody battle. Quick wits, bravery, and luck help them survive and continue on to the cathedral in Chartres. The book concludes abruptly after Grimpow decodes the secret and the travelers set out for unknown adventures in Florence. Translated from Spanish, the story often suffers from redundancy when events are foreshadowed, described in detail, and then reviewed through a character's inner monologue or the retelling to a third party. The coded inscriptions, anagrams, and enigmatic charts are reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code. Grimpow, a reluctant hero discovering an alchemist's magic stone, is similar to Harry Potter. The stereotypical characters, predicable plot twists, and brutal battle scenes are comparable to those found in popular video games such as The Age of Empires.
Children's Literature - Sue Reichard
Medieval England is the setting for this intriguing fantasy debut novel. Grimpow is the protagonist. He is an orphaned youngster around twelve years old. He and his friend Durlib are struggling to find a way to eat when they stumble upon the corpse of a man who has been murdered. Grimpow discovers a shiny polished stone in the man's right hand. There are other treasures among the man's remains as well, such as a sword, a letter and other objects. Grimpow takes the stone from the man's hand and immediately begins to have visions. He and his friend believe they have discovered the long sought-after philosopher's stone. Durlib picks up the letter, which is sealed with an unusual gold symbol. They discover it is written in curious-looking symbols. Grimpow, still holding the stone in his hand, is amazed when suddenly he can read and understand the symbolic writing. As he continues to read the letter, the body suddenly disappears right in front of both boys' eyes. Another object found among the man's remains is a scroll. The scroll contains riddles and mysteries. The two boys begin a quest to discover the answers to these riddles. Together, they are led through some remarkable historical events in 14th-century France. Because this is the height of the Inquisition, Grimpow and his friend must stay ahead of these inquisitors, who also want to gain possession of the stone. Grimpow is helped along the way by sages and secret orders of people who provide some answers and give safe harbor in castle and cathedrals. Some background knowledge of this time period is useful for full appreciation of the book, but it is not necessary to understanding the plot. The book starts a bit slow, and this maydiscourage younger readers. The magic, mystery, characters, and castles are enough to keep older readers turning the 480 pages of this novel. The text was originally written in Spanish. Reviewer: Sue Reichard
School Library Journal

Gr 6-8- When a 14th-century peasant boy stumbles onto a mysterious corpse, his life is inexorably altered. From the hand of the dead knight, Grimpow extracts a talisman that turns out to be no less than the famed philosopher's stone over which kings and popes have tortured and killed in order to gain its possession and its powers. Hiding from the Inquisition in a local abbey, Grimpow discovers that the stone enables him to read and learn at a remarkable pace, but he is filled with the sense that he must fulfill a quest begun by the mysterious knight. Setting out as squire to a dashing young noble, Grimpow must not only solve riddles posed by the stone, but also survive brutal battles to keep it. This attempt at high fantasy leans heavily on the current fascination for tales of the Knights Templar, enigmatic quests, and young boys with special powers. However, a plodding story line that weaves in too many threads (the Inquisition, Copernican and Galilean theories of astronomy and alchemy, among others) without explanation will leave readers baffled and struggling to make sense of all the drama. Add an abrupt and unsatisfying ending and this becomes, at best, an additional purchase.-Sharon Grover, Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI

Kirkus Reviews
Grimpow, the hero of this slow-moving fantasy, moves from being an apprentice thief, to an eager squire, to the wisest sage in the world. When Grimpow finds the fabled philosopher's stone on a dead man's body, he is thrust into a conflict between the Knights Templar, the Pope and the King of France. All of these luminaries covet the vast wealth they believe will be revealed by the philosopher's stone. Grimpow, meanwhile, has already been granted unexpected knowledge merely by his possession of the stone: He can read languages and has startlingly wise insights into great philosophical secrets. Along with the friends he makes along the way, Grimpow solves a multitude of puzzles to reveal the secret of the wise and protect the world from the greed of powerful men. This exposition-laden tale peopled with stock characters fails to engage, despite sweeping battles and epic themes. (Fantasy. 12-14)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, October 29, 2007:
Ábalos blends the grand-scale storytelling prowess and epic quest element of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings with the cryptographic intrigue of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780739359631
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/9/2007
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Age range: 10 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.05 (w) x 5.94 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Rafael Ábalos was born in Archidona, Málaga, in Spain, and as a teenager became an avid reader of adventure stories. A lawyer for many years, Ábalos discovered by accident that he loved to write these stories as well. Grimpow: The Invisible Road is his first book for young readers. Rafael Ábalos lives and writes in southern Spain.
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Read an Excerpt

The fog hung low in the forest, obscuring Grimpow’s way. The boy trudged through the deep snow, alert, despite the haze, but he didn’t notice the body until he’d already tripped and fallen on top of it. He gazed into the face of the dead man lying next to him. He appeared so peaceful, it almost seemed as if the man was just sleeping. Horrified, Grimpow jumped up and ran back to the cottage, pant- ing like a deer being chased by hungry wolves. He raced up to the door and pounded on it with the full force of his body.

When the door cracked open, Grimpow almost fell into the modest home. “Grimpow?” Durlib asked, surprised by the boy’s sudden return.

But Grimpow could barely speak. “There is a . . . a dead man,” he stammered, and pointed toward the forest of fir trees behind him.

Durlib turned pale. “Are you sure, boy?” he asked, sounding alarmed.

Grimpow nodded, then dropped the rabbits he was clutching onto a nearby tree stump.

Durlib motioned for the boy to wait, then turned back into the cottage. He grabbed his fur cloak and paused at the door to take down a long sword he kept there and attach it to his belt.

“Let’s go, Grimpow. Show me where you found him.”

And, like ghosts in the fog, the two left to search for the body.

Grimpow walked fast, with his bow in his left hand and a quiver full of arrows hanging from his back. He was determined to use them if even a shadow moved around him. His heart drummed in his chest as he retraced his steps. The snow was so deep that the footprints Grimpow had left were hard to miss.

“There it is!” he said, pointing at the dark lump half hidden in the snow.

Durlib stopped. “Stay here and don’t move until I tell you,” he ordered.

The dead man lay on his side with his eyes facing the foggy sky, as if his last wish before dying had been to say goodbye to the stars. He looked to be around sixty years old and, judging from his clothes and the thick cloak on his back, there was no doubt he was of noble lineage. Durlib slowly walked closer to the figure and knelt by his side. He closed the gentleman’s eyes. Small icicles hung from the man’s long white hair, beard, and eyebrows. His complexion had turned bluish and his dry lips seemed to be smiling.

“He is frozen,” Durlib called back to Grimpow, motioning for him to approach. “I don’t see any wounds—no rips in his clothes or signs of struggle. He was probably away from his horse and got lost in the dense fog last night. The cold penetrated his veins and froze his blood. He had a peaceful end,” Durlib concluded, “in spite of his unfortunate death.”

As he stood surveying the body, Grimpow thought again that the man did seem to be sleeping. Perhaps death is nothing but a calm and eternal dream, he thought. Then he noticed something odd. The man’s right fist was clenched, as if holding something so valuable he didn’t want to part with it even in death. He pointed it out to Durlib, who took the man’s stiff, frozen hand and wrenched apart each finger until the hand revealed a polished, rounded stone the size of an almond. Durlib plucked it from the gentleman’s palm and held it up close to his face to study it. It was a strange color that seemed to change as he turned in the light. Durlib was mesmerized.

“What is it?” asked Grimpow curiously.

“A stone,” Durlib answered, tossing it to Grimpow. “He might have used it as an amulet when it was time to entrust his soul to God.”

Grimpow turned the stone in his hand.

“Keep it,” Durlib instructed mysteriously, eyes wide as full moons. “From now on, this stone will be tied to your destiny.”

Grimpow held the stone and felt the mineral’s warmth in spite of the cool mountain air. “What do you mean, the stone will be tied to my destiny?” he asked, confused. He’d never heard Durlib speak so enigmatically.

But his friend merely shrugged. “If it is an amulet, I suppose it will protect you from evil spirits and bring you good luck.”

“But I already have an amulet,” said Grimpow. He opened his doublet# and showed Durlib the linen pouch filled with rosemary sprigs his mother had given him to wear around his neck when he was a child.

“Well, you have two now,” Durlib chuckled. “There will be no evil eye, curse, or poison that can harm you. Though, as you can see from this gentleman, you can’t trust the cold. . . . The amulet doesn’t seem to have helped him much there.”

Grimpow stood in the snow and thought of his mother and what she’d always told him. She’d said that he had been born with the fourteenth century and, according to the roundness of the moon on his birthday, the future would bring him all the luck and good things it had denied her.

As he touched the polished stone’s surface he sensed that his mother’s predictions were beginning to come true. Yet, at the same time, something inside him was fearful. He thought his unease was due to having discovered the body at his feet, but despite his young age, this wasn’t the first corpse he had seen. The images of dark and disfigured bodies of numerous children and old and young men and women piled up like scarecrows at the gates of the cemetery haunted his memory. During epidemics hundreds of people from his home in the Ullpens region died.

“Look at these wonders!” Durlib exclaimed excitedly, breaking Grimpow’s trance. The boy watched in surprise as his friend took off his fur cloak, laid it on the snow, and poured onto it the contents of a strange leather bag he’d found under the man’s body. Two daggers of different sizes glimmered under the pale midday sun. Their handles were studded with sapphires and rubies. Silver coins and jewels lay glinting in the folds of the coat. A letter sealed with wax sat next to it, along with a carved wooden box holding a heavy gold seal bearing the same image that was impressed into the wax.

Grimpow had never seen such a treasure.

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