Mitra and her little brother, Babak, are beggars in the city of Rhagae, scratching out a living as best as they can with what they can beg foror steal. But Mitra burns with hope and ambition, for she and Babak are not what they seem. They are of royal blood, but their father's ill-fated plot against the evil tyrant, King Phraates, has resulted in their father's death and their exile. Now disguised as a boy, Mitra has never given up believing they can rejoin what is left of their family and regain their rightful standing in the world.
Then they discover that Babak has a strange gift: If he sleeps with an item belonging to someone, he can know that person's dreams. Mitra believes that they can use this gift to find passage back to the city of Palmyra and their remaining kinsmen. But soon Babak and his abilities come to the attention of a powerful Magus one who has read portents in the stars of the coming of a new king and the dawn of a new age. Soon Mitra and Babak find themselves on the road to Bethlehem...
The acclaimed author of Shadow Spinner returns to ancient Persia in this spellbinding saga a tale filled with the color of the caravansaries and the heat of the desert, a tale that reimagines the wonder and spirit of a lost age.
About the Author
Susan Fletcher is the acclaimed author of Journey of the Pale Bear; as well as the Dragon Chronicles, composed of Dragon’s Milk, Flight of the Dragon Kyn, Sign of the Dove, and Ancient, Strange, and Lovely; and the award-winning Alphabet of Dreams, Shadow Spinner, Walk Across the Sea, and Falcon in the Glass. Ms. Fletcher lives in Wilsonville, Oregon. Visit her at Susan Fletcher.com.
Read an Excerpt
Alphabet of Dreams
By Susan Fletcher
Ginne Seo BooksCopyright © 2006 Susan Fletcher
All right reserved.
When we lived in the City of the Dead, my brother dreamed mostly of food. Banquets he would have there, curled up on the stone floor among the ossuaries -- melons and olives, chickpeas and dates, lentils and bread. Even noble folks' food was not too fine for his dreams -- honeyed lemon peel and almonds, saffron-roasted flesh of lamb.
How did he know of such food, I used to wonder. Was it seeing it in the marketplace? Or does one's true nature bubble up and show itself in dreams? We'd ceased eating as nobles do three years before, when Babak was scarcely two.
Still, this dream food seemed to satisfy him someway. He did not wake weak and peevish with hunger, as I did. There was a kind of glow upon him while the aftertaste of nocturnal feasts suffused his face with joy.
"Sister!" he would say to me. "Such a dream I had. Roasted chickpeas! I ate till I nearly burst! And oranges, all peeled for me and sprinkled with leaves of mint. And warm rounds of bread with sesame seeds!"
But this talk of feasting only made me hungrier, crankier. "Move your feet, Babak," I would snap at last. I would drag him through the honeycombed cave passageways and out toward the gates of Rhagae.
"You can't eat dreams," I would say.
But I was wrong about that.Dreams can feed you, can send you on journeys to places beyond imagining.
I know this, because it happened to us.
"This way, Babak! Come!"
I snatched his hand and pulled him along the street as he veered toward a broken-winged pigeon that foundered in the dust, then yanked him away from some sobbing beggar woman he was drawn to, drying his tears, because of course he must cry too.
"She's nothing to you, Babak. Remember who you are!" We arrived at the head of the caravan as the first horseman passed the carpet weaver's market. "Look for Suren," I said, though now Babak had no need of instruction. His eyes, fastened on the passing travelers, were hungry with hope.
The swaying tassels, tinkling bells, and bright-woven saddlebags lent the caravan a festive air. Seemed to presage a celebration. A songbird trilled from its gilded cage, and a net filled with cooking pots clanked merrily. A camel-riding musician struck up a tune on a double-pipe; another shook a tambourine, filling the air with its gay, rhythmic jingle. Though I tried to fend it off, I too felt hope seeping into the chambers of my heart. I breathed it in with the dust that bloomed up from the animals' feet, with the smells of sweat, dung, and spices. A Magus, resplendent in his white cloak and tall cap, rode by astride a magnificent stallion. A lesser priest came behind, swinging a silver thurible that perfumed the air with smoke; another bore aloft the coals of the sacred fire in a brazier of hammered copper. I studied the others' faces as they passed -- the horse-archers; the attendants and servants; the camel drovers and donkey drovers; the musicians and entertainers; the pilgrims and merchants and grooms. I willed our brother Suren to be among them, to have attached himself to this caravan and returned to us.
But the last of the travelers passed, and no Suren.
I was reaching for Babak's hand to lead him away -- not wanting to look at him, not wanting to see what was gone from his eyes -- when I noticed a jostling up ahead, by the fruit seller's market. There was shouting, and cursing, and an exchange of blows -- a circumstance made in heaven for us. "Move your feet, Babak!" I said. In a trice I had slipped three pomegranates beneath the folds of my tunic and stripped a sack of dates from a fair-haired Scythian nomad with blue tattoos. The fracas suddenly veered in our direction; the Scythian stumbled, fell, flattened Babak beneath him.
It was then, I now realize -- when Babak was pinned beneath the Scythian, when I was kicking the Scythian's back to get him to move -- that the man's fur cap fell off. Babak must have tucked it into his sash.
That night, back in the City of the Dead, Babak pillowed his head on lynx fur and dreamed -- not of food, but of a birth. A happy occasion. A boy. He recognized the Scythian in the dream. Someone bringing him the baby, settling it in his arms. Someone saying, "Father." Babak dreamed the dream, he told me, as if the Scythian himself were dreaming it.
By chance, we caught sight of the man near the rope makers' market the next day and, before I could stop him, Babak sang out, "A boy! It will be a boy! A healthy boy!"
"Hsst!" I said, and snatched up Babak's hand, and ducked behind a donkey, behind a spice merchant, behind a crumbling wall, and tried to lose ourselves in the crowd before the Scythian could catch us.
But he did.
As it happened, the Scythian didn't recognize Babak from the day before. As it happened, the stolen cap and dates were the last things on his mind. As it happened, he was hoping for tidings -- though not from a marketplace waif.
As it happened, his wife was expecting a child.
This dream of my brother's was a good omen, he said, when he had pried it from us. Then he handed Babak a copper. With which we bought food -- something I had never done in all the fourteen years of my life.
Excerpted from Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher Copyright © 2006 by Susan Fletcher. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The story of the three wise men has always intrigued me. I loved the twist that Fletcher put on the story. It caused me to reflect, and also want to start building my own theories. It was a wonderful story that I have made many recommendations for. It was well written and touching.
Susan Fletcher¿s Alphabet of Dreams has great potential, but simply cannot live up to its predecessor, The Dragon Chronicles. Alphabet of Dreams tells the story of two siblings separated from their royal parents and brother. Set in Ancient Persia on the road to Jerusalem, Mitra, a 14 year-old girl who tries to escape her captors, cure her sick brother, and find her lost brother. Fletcher¿s Alphabet has a strong beginning, starting with a tale of treachery and supernatural powers, but readers will quickly lose interest with the dull storyline, which features Mitra, constantly worrying about her family and regaining her royal status. The majority of the book revolves on Mitra, complaining about her family and other troubles. Only in the end does the story get more interesting, but by that time readers will have lost interest in Fletcher¿s story.
It may help if you know this is about the gathering of the three wise men, or Magi, who seek the newborn Jesus under the miracle star, but I don't think it's essential. What matters is that Mitra/Ramin and her little brother Babak are on the run from the king's assassins who killed their noble family. Mitra is pretending to be male Ramin to move about in their Persian society, where she must beg and steal for their food. Babak has begun to have dreams of the future when he sleeps with a piece of someone's clothing. Word gets out, of course. Magus Melchior sweeps up Mitra/Ramin and Babak. He doesn't seem to care or notice that the dreams he demands are making the little boy sick. Mitra hopes Babak's dreams will earn enough money to go to a city where she hopes they will find what's left of their family, and return to their old, wealthy lifestyle. In their journey west, collecting the other two wise kings as Babak dreams and drifts into the dream world, Mitra learns that they have enemies, that her old world may be gone for good, and that she has to decide what's really important. I found Mitra's insistence on her old life, when I thought it was clear that life was gone, annoying. Just when I was ready to lose patience with her, she'd be kind to her brother or to one of the ungrateful, ugly animals she encounters. She's a brave girl in a hard world, with a lot of tough decisions to make, and no way of knowing who to trust. Susan Fletcher is always very realistic. She does no cotton candy happy endings, but satisfying ones that make sense. They're believable. This is not prettied-up Bible story, but a genuine tale about actual people.