A long undisturbed bedroom. A startling likeness. A mysterious friend.
When twelve-year-old Prince Lev Lvov goes to live with his aunt at Falcon House, he takes his rightful place as heir to the Lvov family estate. Prince Lev dreams of becoming a hero of Russia like his great ancestors. But he'll discover that dark secrets haunt this house. Prince Lev is the only one who can set them free-will he be the hero his family needs?
This title has Common Core connections.
About the Author
Eugene Yelchin is the author and illustrator of Arcady's Goal and the Newbery Honor book Breaking Stalin's Nose. Born and educated in Russia, he left the former Soviet Union when he was twenty-seven years old. Mr. Yelchin has also illustrated several books for children, including Crybaby, Who Ate All the Cookie Dough? and Won Ton. He lives in California with his wife and children.
Read an Excerpt
The Haunting of Falcon House
By Prince Lev Lvov, Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt and CompanyCopyright © 2016 Eugene Yelchin
All rights reserved.
In which a mysterious boy appears in the window
Mother often hummed while sketching. I never mentioned it, not wanting to embarrass her. Once after nightfall in our dining room, she hummed the whole time while we were sketching Woolly in my drawing album. On the table, our cat snoozed as always, his ears twitching. Mother sketched him from his tail, and I from his head, until our pens met over his tummy in the fold between the pages. The picture was complete, the lines unbroken, as if one person had sketched the cat.
"Don't simply follow the rules," Mother taught me. "Draw from your heart, Levushka."
Whenever Mother talked about matters of the heart, she called me Levushka, but my proper name is Prince Lev Lvov, as was the name of every Lvov who has ruled Falcon House. My ancestors fought in every war and served every emperor since the great Tsar Peter. I was the last of an ancient lineage, so when the invitation arrived from Falcon House for me to take up my noble duties, I knew the time had come to cut my mother's apron strings.
The journey to Saint Petersburg was long. The days might have passed quickly had I company, but my aunt Olga Lvovna chose to book me a private train compartment for my journey to Falcon House. As children ran laughing up and down the aisle outside my door, I dutifully occupied myself with sketching or tossing rumpled paper balls to an imagined playmate. Mostly I stared out the window framed in hoarfrost as the train puffed across fields shrouded in snow. Snowdrifts flickered along the tracks, but far away walls of firs stood in the mist like mourners at a funeral. When at night the window turned black, I was startled by the reflection of a face. But it wasn't mine; some other boy's small, waxen aspect gleamed back at me, eyes wide, brilliant, and imploring. I blinked. It was my face again in the glass.
"Loneliness can play tricks on you," Mother liked to say, and, for a moment, I wished she had taken the journey with me.CHAPTER 2
In which Prince Lev arrives in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg was so cold that when the train drew close to the station, the windowpane beside me transformed into a sheet of icy lacework. I breathed a clear eyelet onto the ice and peered through it. For an instant, the golden domes and spires of the city sparkled in the far-off distance, but then the engine's hissing steam blocked out the view. The train pulled along a platform cloaked in glassy mist, a whistle blew, brakes squealed, iron buffers clashed together, and the train ground to a stop.
My aunt Olga Lvovna, my father's older sister, had summoned me to Petersburg, but she had not come to meet me. She'd sent her coachman instead. A man with a fiery beard was waiting for me on the platform. He said his name was Klim. I had assumed he picked me out amongst the passengers because I was the only boy getting off the train without parents, but I was mistaken.
"Had I not my own self many years ago driven Master's casket to the burial," said he, gaping at me in amazement, "I would have sworn he'd never died."
"Who died?" I said, a little uneasy.
"Your Excellency's grandfather, a man not to be trifled with." Klim crossed himself. "Your Excellency looks just like him."
Mother had never told me that I resembled my famous grandfather, but so much the better. What a nice surprise!
Klim tossed my trunk upon his shoulder and guided me out of the station to where his sleigh was waiting. I climbed in eagerly. Klim tucked me under a bearskin, mounted his seat, and took up the reins.
"Step lively, sister!" he called to his chestnut mare. The mare snorted and stomped the snow first with one foot, then another, as if she were of two minds which leg to start with. Klim twisted in his seat and winked at me good-naturedly.
"She's only kidding, Your Excellency," he said. "When she gets going, the Devil himself can't stop her."CHAPTER 3
In which Prince Lev echoes his famous grandfather
Klim's chestnut mare flew like the wind. We dashed along snow-coated streets that sparkled like sugar, crossed bridges arching over frozen canals, and passed palaces gleaming with gold. Shops with enormous windows flashed by like tinfoil. The gas lamps had just been lighted, and below the lamps flowed crowds of richly dressed people. Sleighs and carriages I'd never seen the likes of crisscrossed in all directions. The crisp and frosty air rang with crackling whips, ringing bells, and sleigh runners squeaking over the dazzling snow.
At first, snowflakes twirled in the air like feathers, but soon they fell so thick and large that the sky became dark. The gas lamps, the festive crowds, and the vehicles we passed along the way vanished into the rapidly gathering gloom, but Klim's chestnut mare kept at full gallop. At such furious haste, snow began stinging my face while wind was howling into my ears.
It was then that I fancied my mother's arms cradling me under the bearskin covers. "Do not be afraid, Levushka, dear heart," she whispered into my ear softly. "I'm here with you."
"What's wrong, Your Excellency?" I heard Klim's voice. "You're crying."
At the station, Klim had said that I looked like my grandfather, so when I reminded him that he was to deliver me to my aunt's, I tried to speak the way my grandfather might have spoken. "Be so kind, my dear man," I said in a grown-up voice, "as to refrain from needless chatter and carry out my aunt's orders without delay."
Just then, the sleigh skirted something unseen in the dark, its runners grating over the icy road. At the turn, a gust of wind struck me full in the face. I ducked under the bearskin, but with a terrible howl, the wind tore the covers off me. The mare snorted, stopped abruptly, and reared on her hind legs. A violent jolt yanked me out of my seat. I smashed into Klim's back, bounced off, and when I scrambled up, the sleigh stood still.CHAPTER 4
In which Prince Lev hesitates at the door of Falcon House
Behind the wall of thickly falling snow, Klim turned to face me, and as he spoke, the tiny icicles sprouting from his mustache broke off and fell into his snow-plastered beard. "With God's help we're home, Your Excellency!" he said. "There's your Falcon House."
I turned in the direction his whip was pointing. A looming mass of darkness rose from the mist. With not a single window lighted, my ancestral home glistened as if some fabled giant had carved it from an enormous block of ice. The house ran the length of an entire street, but how tall it was I couldn't tell; the upper floors simply melted into the leaden sky above.
Klim tugged on the reins. The mare neighed and shook her head but didn't budge, as if refusing to approach the house. When Klim raised his whip to strike her snow-covered rump, the mare craned her neck and looked at him. Klim halted and, grumbling, put his whip aside and climbed out of the sleigh. Plunging knee-deep in snow, he trudged toward the entrance. Two massive stone falcons that I had at first taken for snowdrifts flanked the door. Klim passed in between the stone birds and tried to lift the large brass knocker, but it was frozen to the surface of the door.
"Open up, Lukich!" he hollered, pounding both doors. "I brought the prince!"
One door cracked open, and the shards of ice encasing it fell over Klim. A face framed by a pair of bristly whiskers appeared in the opening and looked severely at him.
"Fool!" cried the man. "What are you banging for?" Leaning forward, the man knocked Klim's hat off his head.
Klim winced and glanced in my direction with an embarrassed grin. The man followed his gaze.
"Your Excellency!" he bellowed, and, pushing Klim aside, rushed to help me out of the sleigh. "Thank God you're here. Madam has worried herself sick."
"What did you knock his hat off for?" I said.
"What hat?" He blinked, appearing not to understand.
I pushed his hand aside and jumped out of the sleigh.
"Name's Lukich," said he, following closely behind as I climbed the snow-covered steps. "Madam's doorman. This way, please."
I approached the doorway but halted before the threshold swept high with snow. One step over that threshold and my life would change forever. I would no longer remain who I was — a boy living with his mother, a boy with no duties and no purpose. One step and I would assume my proper place among my ancestors. One step and I would become the master of Falcon House.
"Be so good as to watch your step, Your Excellency," Lukich said. "It's slippery."CHAPTER 5
In which a mysterious boy reappears
Falcon House's entry hall was vast and shadowy. An enormous chandelie'r loomed unlit above a staircase of gleaming stone. Along the walls in murky alcoves stood statues made of marble. The statues were of men in army uniforms adorned with crosses, stars, and medals, all intricately carved. Some men held swords in their hands, some held banners, some held rolled-up papers of great importance, but all seemed to be pointing their marble hands in my direction.
"Your ancestors, Your Excellency," Lukich whispered. "The Lvovs."
I turned to Lukich and saw myself reflected in a vast Venetian mirror suspended on the wall behind his back. Bundled up in scarves and plastered with snow, my puny shape seemed so pitiful compared to those grand marble men. I had come to Petersburg in order to follow the path of my ancestors, but gazing at my reflection now, I knew at once that my plan was doomed.
The front door stood wide open. Lukich had stomped off somewhere, and Klim was outside. If I was quick, I could slip out before they caught me. There was no time to ponder how to find the railway station in this blizzard or board a train back home without a ticket. I had to flee.
Turning toward the door, I was about to run out when a faint glow of something white atop the stairs caught my eye. The white spot hovered in the gloom for one brief moment, rose slightly, and suddenly swooped down along the handrail's curve. Halfway to the bottom landing, the white spot became a white shirt worn by a boy sliding down the rail with lightning speed. When the boy's bare feet hit the floor, I glimpsed his face. It was the very face I had seen reflected in the train compartment's window, same eyes, wide, brilliant, and imploring. He glanced at me, smiled, and took off behind the stairs, vanishing as unexpectedly as he'd appeared.
The boy's remarkable appearance surprised me so much it was a moment before I recalled my intention of running away. I scurried to the door but on the threshold bumped into Klim hauling in my snow-covered trunk. I leaped back just in time; a lump of snow broke off the trunk and burst against the marble floor before me.
"Watch where you're going, fool!" Lukich shouted behind my back.
I glanced at Lukich in alarm, but he was not shouting at me.
"Do not be concerned, Your Excellency," he said. "I'll attend to him in short order." He glared angrily at Klim and tugged a bell rope hanging by the door. A bell rang out somewhere in the house. Another bell answered from a little farther off, and then a third one rang far away. At the top of the stairs, where a moment ago I'd seen the white shirt of that mysterious boy, a footman with a lighted candelabrum appeared and, leaning over the handrail, shouted, "Arrived?"
"Arrived!" Lukich shouted back.
"Thank heavens!"CHAPTER 6
In which Prince Lev allows an old valet to fall
The double doors leading into the marble hall came open cautiously, revealing a throng of house servants. Whispering amongst themselves, they gaped at me with curiosity and fear. It seemed the servants were expecting some oddity from me, some rare trick, as if I were a circus bear. Lukich waved his fist, shooing them away, but they remained. Then someone bald and bandy-legged pushed through the crowd and hobbled toward me.
"Stay back, Shysh!" growled Lukich. "I am warning you!"
The old man ignored the warning and kept advancing. Lukich rushed to bar the intruder from me and swung his fist at him. The old man ducked under the doorman's fist, leaped forward, and caught my hand in his withered fingers.
"A living image of the master!" he whispered hoarsely. "God is my witness! You and your grandfather are as alike as two drops of water!"
I tried to free my hand, but the old man squeezed it tighter. "Allow me to serve Your Excellency, I beg you, or she will throw me out! I served your grandfather as his valet till he breathed his last. My name is —"
Suddenly he croaked and fell into my arms from a blow dealt from behind by Lukich.
"Name's Shysh," the old man wheezed, drooling from his toothless mouth. "At your service!"
Startled, I backed away. The old man fell.
"She's coming!" someone cried, and instantly the servants fled from the doorway. Shysh scrambled off the floor and hobbled after them, but by the time he reached the doors, they were already locked. He rattled the doorknob, scratched the door, and suddenly whined like a dog separated from his master.
There was a loud thud, a groan, and with a low rumble, something heavy began moving inside the marble wall. At first the crystals in the chandelier softly clinked, but as the rumble grew, they soon banged into one another wildly. The floor shook beneath my feet, and the Venetian mirror rattling in its frame made my reflection tremble as if in fear.
"What's going on?" I said to Klim.
He screwed his frightened eyes in the direction of the stairs and whispered, "Madam."CHAPTER 7
In which Prince Lev is nearly run over by a wheelchair
There was a piercing screech, and something struck the floor behind the rumbling wall. The chandelier lurched, shedding crystals, which bounced off the stone floor like marbles.
"Attentio-o-o-o-on!" bellowed Lukich over my ear. "Princess Olga Lvovna Lvov!"
I moved away from him in case he'd bellow something else, but he fell silent and, with his chest thrust forward and arms pressed to his sides, gazed fixedly at the stairs. I followed his gaze, expecting someone to descend, but there was no one on the steps. Just as I glanced back at him, something banged near the stairs. I looked there again. A narrow door flew open to the left of the bottom landing, light moved behind the door, and someone in a tailcoat walked out backward. He towed a wheelchair after him, and when he swung the wheelchair round, I saw a pale-faced woman stiffen in the seat. Behind the door, a narrow cage framed with wrought-iron latticework swayed slightly within an ill-lighted room that had no ceiling. Could that be one of those lifting boxes Mother said they had in Petersburg? Called elevators?
Meanwhile, the wheelchair squeaked straight toward me so rapidly that I feared the man who pushed it aimed to run me over. Alarmed, I glanced at Klim standing to my left and then at Lukich to my right. They kept their bulging eyes fixed on the woman in the chair. As the wheelchair came to a halt before me, the woman raised a lorgnette to her eyes and regarded me intently.
"God have mercy," she said under her breath. "Daddy's look-alike."CHAPTER 8
In which Prince Lev is questioned by his aunt
I had seen Olga Lvovna's pictures in my father's photographic album. In every picture, she smiled, her eyes shining brightly, and she was always dressed in white. That little girl was no more. Olga Lvovna was my father's older sister, but how much older I couldn't tell; she looked about a hundred. Her eyes were circled with dusky rings, her waxy cheeks were hollow, and all that remained of her once smiling lips was but a brief thin line. Her dress was black, and she was so pale and skinny, I fancied she had spent her life in prison with neither sunlight nor fresh air.
"Come give your aunt a kiss," said she.
I moved to kiss her on the cheek, but unexpectedly she thrust her bony hand under my nose. "You may kiss my hand."
I paused, a little surprised. Her narrow hand was richly jeweled. When I leaned in to touch it with my lips, the jewels flared icily. She flipped her hand palm-up and caught my chin between her thumb and forefinger.
"I must always be told the truth, Prince," she whispered, her black eyes piercing me like daggers. "The truth only. Do you understand?"
"I understand, Your Excellency."
She smiled faintly and released my chin. I skipped back.
"Then tell me about your mother, Prince."
I shrugged. What was there to tell? "She's fine," I said.
"Could you repeat that, Prince? I didn't quite follow. Did you say your mother is fine?" I thought about it. "Not really."
She lifted her lorgnette and gazed fixedly at me. "Why not?"
"Because she didn't want me to come to Falcon House," I replied. "But she was wrong. She was dead wrong!"
I must have raised my voice a little. Perhaps I even shouted. The echo of my words was ringing through the hall. She gazed at me, astonished. My cheeks felt hot — I crimsoned.
"Mother was wrong to try to prevent me from my duties," I continued in my normal voice. "You called for me so I would become like them."
Excerpted from The Haunting of Falcon House by Prince Lev Lvov, Eugene Yelchin. Copyright © 2016 Eugene Yelchin. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
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Table of Contents
Note on the Translation,
Chapter 1. In which a mysterious boy appears in the window,
Chapter 2. In which Prince Lev arrives in Saint Petersburg,
Chapter 3. In which Prince Lev echoes his famous grandfather,
Chapter 4. In which Prince Lev hesitates at the door of Falcon House,
Chapter 5. In which a mysterious boy reappears,
Chapter 6. In which Prince Lev allows an old valet to fall,
Chapter 7. In which Prince Lev is nearly run over by a wheelchair,
Chapter 8. In which Prince Lev is questioned by his aunt,
Chapter 9. In which Prince Lev learns the first rule of Falcon House,
Chapter 10. In which Falcon House gives Prince Lev a shiver,
Chapter 11. In which Prince Lev looks into his grandfather's face,
Chapter 12. In which Olga Lvovna changes her mind,
Chapter 13. In which a door opens by itself,
Chapter 14. In which Prince Lev enters his grandfather's study,
Chapter 15. In which a wonderful surprise awaits Prince Lev,
Chapter 16. In which Prince Lev plays musketeers,
Chapter 17. In which Prince Lev is frightened by an artist's trick,
Chapter 18. In which Prince Lev calls for his mother,
Chapter 19. In which Prince Lev sets out to conquer his fear,
Chapter 20. In which horrific events befall Prince Lev,
Chapter 21. In which Prince Lev meets Vanyousha,
Chapter 22. In which the old valet dances,
Chapter 23. In which Prince Lev sets out to write a letter but draws pictures instead,
Chapter 24. In which Prince Lev visits with his aunt,
Chapter 25. In which Prince Lev learns what was in store for Shysh,
Chapter 26. In which Woldemar attempts to be brave,
Chapter 27. In which Prince Lev decides to destroy his unfinished drawing,
Chapter 28. In which Prince Lev challenges Vanyousha to a duel,
Chapter 29. In which Prince Lev and Vanyousha play musketeers,
Chapter 30. In which Vanyousha reveals a terrible secret,
Chapter 31. In which Prince Lev fails to tag Vanyousha,
Chapter 32. In which Prince Lev rides down the banister,
Chapter 33. In which Prince Lev learns about the Corps des Pages,
Chapter 34. In which Vanyousha interrupts Prince Lev's studies,
Chapter 35. In which Prince Lev and Vanyousha ride down to hell,
Chapter 36. In which hell smells like mothballs,
Chapter 37. In which the old valet is about to be thrown out,
Chapter 38. In which Vanyousha disguises himself,
Chapter 39. In which Prince Lev and Vanyousha fly up to heaven,
Chapter 40. In which Prince Lev and Vanyousha wish upon a star,
Chapter 41. In which Prince Lev questions his aunt and receives an unexpected answer,
Chapter 42. In which Prince Lev cracks the whip,
Chapter 43. In which Prince Lev and his grandfather appear side by side in the mirror,
Chapter 44. In which Prince Lev delights his ancestors,
Chapter 45. In which Prince Lev confronts a Cossack,
Chapter 46. In which Prince Lev meets Olga Lvovna's guest,
Chapter 47. In which the emperor tells his amusing story,
Chapter 48. In which Prince Lev is spoon-fed by his aunt,
Chapter 49. In which Prince Lev completes the drawing of his grandfather's chamber,
Chapter 50. In which Prince Lev learns the truth about his grandfather,
Chapter 51. In which Prince Lev sets Vanyousha free,
Chapter 52. In which Prince Lev remembers what happened to his mother,
Chapter 53. In which Shysh serves his new master,
Chapter 54. In which Shysh tells of a ghastly episode,
Chapter 55. In which Olga Lvovna makes a confession,
Chapter 56. In which Prince Lev finishes the drawing that couldn't be finished,
About the Author,