The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen

Overview

A richly detailed historical novel from master storyteller Nicholas Christopher that School Library Journal calls “[A] lush tale of music, magic, and intrigue”!
 
Nicolò Zen is all alone in 1700s Venice, save for his clarinet, which a mysterious magician had enchanted, allowing its first player to perform expertly. Soon Nicolò is a famous virtuoso, wealthy beyond his dreams, but he can’t stop wondering if he earned the success himself—or ...

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The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen

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Overview

A richly detailed historical novel from master storyteller Nicholas Christopher that School Library Journal calls “[A] lush tale of music, magic, and intrigue”!
 
Nicolò Zen is all alone in 1700s Venice, save for his clarinet, which a mysterious magician had enchanted, allowing its first player to perform expertly. Soon Nicolò is a famous virtuoso, wealthy beyond his dreams, but he can’t stop wondering if he earned the success himself—or what might happen if the spell were removed. And throughout it all, he continues to think about the girl he met in Venice, what she might be doing and if she’s safe from harm. 

With a guest appearance by composer Vivaldi, and brimming with fascinating period details, this is a compelling coming-of-age story full of universal themes and a love story that will conjure memories of Romeo and Juliet, perfect for teens who love stories set in other times, and a magician who dresses all in white and can be in two places at once. . . .

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
KIRKUS REVIEWS, November 1, 2013:
"Accomplished poet and novelist Christopher delivers a debut for teens thickly woven with 18th-century Venetian intrigue and metaphysical magic . . .engrossed readers should gladly ride the plot’s twists and turns."

BOOKLIST, January 1, 2014:
"Magical realism, accurate historical details regarding eighteenth century Europe and Vivaldi’s orphan orchestra, and richly detailed musical ephemera combine in a sprawling, poetic, sophisticated, and atmospheric novel."

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL, December 1, 2013:
"[A] lush tale of music, magic, and intrigue . . .a good choice for those looking for a lush, challenging read."

VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Stephanie Wilkes
With a near perfect blend of mystery and history and a dash of the fantastical, The True Adventures Of Nicolò Zen propels readers into a land of beauty and intrigue. Set in 1700s Venice, Nicolò Zen has been orphaned and is desperately seeking a new life for himself. Armed with only an enchanted clarinet, Zen lives a rags-to-riches story. Deciding that his fate is best served as a female orphan, he works his way—in disguise— into the Ospedale della Pietà, an orphanage with a performing orchestra of orphaned girls. After becoming privy to a scheme devised to assault the girls at the orphanage, including a girl that Zen has secretly fallen in love with, Zen’s gender is revealed. He leaves the orphanage, relying on his new-found friends for assistance. The mystery of the enchanted clarinet and how it came to be drives Zen to find the magician who placed the spell, and from there, Zen's life takes a remarkable turn. With the magician as his trusted benefactor, Zen travels all over Austria and Europe performing as a musical prodigy, gaining his own fame and fortune. Unfortunately, a tryst with a female causes Zen's ego to get the best of him and he is forced to flee Vienna at which time he discovers that the devious plot he had thought was ended at the orphanage has caused the love of his life, Adriana, to flee, and his best friend, Julietta, to disappear. Setting off to right the wrongs that he had thought corrected, Zen learns that a life enchanted may be created by simply living. Rich in historical detail and packed with action, The True Adventures Of Nicolò Zen is a must-have for libraries, especially those whose readers who have outgrown Harry Potter and other similar magical novels. Reviewer: Stephanie Wilkes; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-20
Accomplished poet and novelist Christopher delivers a debut for teens thickly woven with 18th-century Venetian intrigue and metaphysical magic. Nicolò Zen, a mason's son, possesses an enchanted ivory clarinet--acquired by his father through barter--along with an innate talent for reading and interpreting music. His rustic life on the tiny island of Mazzorbo is sundered when a malaria epidemic fells his parents and three sisters. Aided by a neighbor, the 14-year-old orphan survives his own fever and heads to Venice. After several uneasy nights on the street, Nicolò auditions for an orphanage's esteemed orchestra, overseen by the Master, Vivaldi himself. The catch: Nicolò must disguise himself as a girl. Despite his tenuous charade, he befriends several girls and the cook but soon confronts the Ospedale della Pietà's sinister backdrop of human trafficking and conspiracy. Nicolò's first-person narration is delivered, memoirlike, from a mature perspective. This limits the in-the-moment impact of a teen boy's adventures, which include sexual initiation and first love. Happy endings click into place for the good guys and girls here, with a sequel intimated even as Nicolò and his bride settle down in Modena. As Nicolò morphs from street kid to orphanage crasher to Europe's foremost solo clarinetist, abetted by a fascinating pair of magician brothers, engrossed readers should gladly ride the plot's twists and turns. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
School Library Journal
12/01/2013
Gr 8 Up—Fourteen-year-old orphan Nicolò Zen's most prized possession is an ivory clarinet, a new instrument in the early 18th century. However, this clarinet is even more unusual because he believes it's enchanted; the first person to play it becomes a virtuoso. Nicolò's desperation and his love of music lead him to the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, a girls' orphanage which is the home of a renowned orchestra led by Antonio Vivaldi. Nicolò disguises himself as a girl in order to become a member of the orchestra. However, life in the orphanage proves to be dangerous, as there are unscrupulous people there who exploit and even abduct some of the orphans. When Adriana, the girl he loves, is endangered, Nicolò has to abandon his disguise. Forced to flee, he then goes on to have numerous adventures, including an encounter with Massimo the Magnificent, the magician who placed the spell on the clarinet. Nicolò eventually finds his happy ending. This lush tale of music, magic, and intrigue contains numerous detailed descriptions of everyday life and music in 18th-century Venice, which balance the more fantastical elements. The complex plot and language could mean that this title will not have broad teen appeal, but it would be a good choice for those looking for a lush, challenging read.—Kathleen E. Gruver, Burlington County Library, Westampton, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375867385
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/7/2014
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 995,744
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

NICHOLAS CHRISTOPHER is the author of six previous adult novels: Tiger Rag, The Bestiary, Franklin Flyer, A Trip to the Stars, Veronica, and The Soloist; eight books of poetry, most recently his new and selected poems, Crossing the Equator; and a book on film noir, Somewhere in the Night. He is a professor in the Graduate School of Arts and Science at Columbia University and lives in New York City.

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