The second book in the trilogy bestselling author Adam Gidwitz called “epic” and “a wild fantasy adventure” finds siblings Max and Carter and their allies battling new foes, relying on new friends, and fighting for stakes higher than ever!
After narrowly escaping the Pied Piper at the end of The Peddler’s Road, Max and Carter have been separated. Max has returned to the real world and will stop at nothing to find her way back to her brother on the Summer Isle. The only way to return is with a mysterious key, controlled by the dastardly wizard Vodnik, who is holding the souls of Max and Carter’s parents hostage. Meanwhile, Carter has been separated from his friends and is left with a very untrustworthy companion: the Pied Piper himself!
Along the way, Max and Carter are joined by a bashful trollson, a daring elf, a seafaring hobgoblin, and the ever-loyal kobold Bandybulb. As their paths converge, they prepare for the most important quests yet: save their parents and send the children of New Hamelin home to their own place and time!
Praise for The Secrets of the Pied Piper 1: The Peddler’s Road:
“The Peddler’s Road begins as a creepy fairy tale–mystery and then explodes into a wild fantasy adventure. . . . Cody has begun what promises to be an epic trilogy.” —Adam Gidwitz, New York Times bestselling author of A Tale Dark and Grimm and The Inquisitor’s Tale
“Prepare to be enchanted. Like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Cody spins a wildly inventive, deeply heartfelt tale that whisks you off to a magical land where fairy tales live and breathe—and frequently try to kill you. From the first page, I was a goner.” —John Stephens, New York Times bestselling author of The Emerald Atlas
About the Author
MATTHEW CODY is the author of Villainous, Powerless, Super, The Dead Gentleman, and Will in Scarlet. Originally from the Midwest, he now lives in New York City with his wife and young son. Besides novels, Matt has written for both DC Comics and Marvel, and is a regular moderator at the Thalia Book Club camp at Symphony Space. Find out more at matthewcody.com or @matthew_cody.
Read an Excerpt
The little cobbler’s shop at the corner had no customers. At least, warned Mrs. Amsel, not customers as such. In their few weeks of journeying together, Max had learned that when Mrs. Amsel said something like that, it was almost always cause for alarm. The diminutive housekeeper was prone to dangerous understatements.
So when Mrs. Amsel came stumbling backward out of the cobbler’s doorway, looking like she’d been standing downwind of a hurricane, Max wasn’t exactly surprised. The old woman’s flower-print cardigan sweater was matted with dust and bits of shoe leather, and her ever-present kerchief had been blown askew, so that her small pointed earsa trademark of her peculiar lineagepeeked through hair that showed gray at the roots.
“Such rudeness!” exclaimed Mrs. Amsel in her thick -accent. She hastily rearranged the kerchief around her head, hiding those distinctive ears from view.
“Let me guess,” said Max. “He doesn’t know anything about elves and he’s never heard of any place called the Summer Isle and he wants us to leave him alone and never come back. Pretty much sum it up?”
Mrs. Amsel muttered something in German under her breath, something that would make the woman blush if Max had been able to translate it. “And there is something else in there, protecting him,” said the little woman. “I’m not sure—a poltergeist, maybe. Can you believe it? Not a strong one, I don’t think. Just blows stuff around—but still, so very rude.”
“I’m going in,” said Max.
“What? No, meine Liebe,” said Mrs. Amsel. “Forget him. We’ll have better luck with the next one.”
“That’s what you said about the last three! I’m tired of everyone slamming the door in our faces and playing dumb. All we want to do is ask a few questions.”
“They are rude,” agreed Mrs. Amsel. “I always ask politely, but these provincial elflings have no manners.”
“So maybe we need a change of strategy,” said Max. She looked up at the closed door, the windows with the shades pulled low. Her mouth hardened to a straight line as she made up her mind. “Maybe we need someone who can be rude right back.”
“But be careful! He is already angry.”
“I’ve faced worse than him, believe me,” said Max, and it was true. For the most part, Max’s nearly thirteen years on this planet had been an uneventful stretch punctuated by fights with her younger brother and one impulsive morning when she’d decided to dye her hair bright pink. But in the last month, Max had traveled to a magic land, battled rat creatures and escaped a witch, walked over a troll bridge and bartered with ghosts. Now she was back on earth, but her brother was still trapped on the Summer Isle and her mother and father had mysteriously gone missing. All Max had was the little housekeeper for company. Like it or not, Max had packed a lot of experience into a very short amount of time. She felt confident she could handle a shoemaker and his magic wind.
The cobbler’s shop was a single-story chateau nestled at the corner of a winding side street in a village so tiny it didn’t appear on most maps. While the rest of the village could be called quaint, on this lone street the houses were either boarded up and abandoned or in such a state of disrepair that one had to wonder how anyone managed to live there at all. Weeds erupted through cracks in the brick sidewalk, desperate to reach the sunlight that failed to penetrate the seemingly endless shade. It was an odd place to find a shoe shop, but it was exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find a little hidden magic.
Mrs. Amsel had explained that those with magic blood lived in remote places because they eschewed technology, especially electronics. Electricity and magic were dual energies that did not mix well. Nothing could make a spell go awry like booting up a laptop. And Mrs. Amsel claimed that simply having elf blood in her veins was the whole reason she couldn’t get her microwave clock to stop blinking twelve.
On this evening, on this particular street, Max and Mrs. Amsel were the only souls in sight. This was good because, though she hadn’t said anything yet to the little house-keeper, Max was pretty sure they were being followed. It was mostly a sense she had, the feeling of being watched that had gotten stronger over the past several days. A few times she thought she’d glimpsed a tall figure standing in the shadow of a building or in the shade of an alleyway. She’d seen such a figure before, back in Hamelin where their whole adventure had begun. Max hoped that this time the shadows were just shadows, and that her instinct was wrong. But she feared it wasn’t.
All the more reason for urgency. Max wouldn’t let them be turned away again. A little sign hung on the door that was the French equivalent of out for lunch. The sign had been hanging there unchanged since early in the morning, and it was now nearing suppertime.
There was no doorbell chime to announce her entrance, which made sense because some elflings were superstitious and avoided things like cold iron and the chiming of bells, though they didn’t seem to bother Mrs. Amsel in the slightest. In fact, she often talked about how she missed listening to the church bells of Hamelin. Not Max. She missed the sounds of traffic and people speaking English back in her own home in New York. She missed such things terribly. What had been intended as a short visit, just a quick research trip to Germany so that Max’s father could work on his new book, had turned into something else entirely. Now her parents were missing and her brother was stranded in a land of magic, and Max didn’t know how to help any of them.
She was not leaving this shop without some answers.
The inside of the shop smelled of leather and polish, and it was filled with racks of shoes in various states of disrepair. An antique cash register sat on the countertop, and across from it a small man sat hunched over his cobbler’s work-station. He was as bald and knobby as an old potato, with two enormous pointy ears that twitched as he pried the soles off a pair of work boots.
The floor was covered with scraps of thread and flaps of leather that had been scattered everywhere, as if someone had left a window open in a storm.
The cobbler barked at Max in French without bothering to look up from his work.
“Excuse me,” said Max. “Do you speak English?”
“Hmm?” answered the cobbler. “American? Are you with the old woman? I told her I don’t have anything to say to you.”
Max felt a very slight ruffling breeze brush past her. Little more than a sigh, but enough that it made her second-guess her decision to come in. She’d seen enough magic in her life to know that she didn’t like it. A glance over her shoulder reassured her that Mrs. Amsel was waiting anxiously on the stoop.
“I just have a few questions,” said Max, turning back to the cobbler. “It won’t take any time at all.”
The cobbler slammed one of the work boots down on his table and hopped off his stool. The seat had added a few much-needed inches of height to the little fellow, and now as he marched out from behind his counter, his head barely came up to Max’s chin. His ears stuck out from his head like wings spread for takeoff.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” said Max. “But don’t people around here stare”
“I don’t usually get visitors,” the little man snapped. “Most people can read the sign on the door.”
“We’re looking for information . . .”
Max’s words were lost in a sudden gust that forced her to stumble backward. The front door blew open, and Max was pelted with a storm of shoe scraps. This must have been the poltergeist Mrs. Amsel had warned her about. It had blown the little woman right out the door, but Max wasn’t Mrs. Amsel. She stood her ground, even though it meant she had to dodge a flying shoe or two.
“I’m . . . not budging . . . ,” cried Max, shouting to be heard over the gale. “You awful . . . little . . . shoe-elf!”
All at once the wind ceased and a hush fell over the cobbler’s shop. Though Max couldn’t see the air spirit, she could feel its presence. Something was hanging about nearby, tense and expectant, like a child watching his parents fight. Judging by the shocked look on the cobbler’s face, Max had just gotten in a zinger.
“I am not a shoe-elf!” the cobbler sputtered. “I am an elfling who happens to like fixing shoes. It’s a hobby!”
“I really don’t care who you are,” said Max, brushing the dust off herself as best she could. “As long as you call off your attack wind, I’ll leave you alone. After you answer a few questions.”
“How do you know I won’t sic my wind on you again?” said the cobbler. “Only, maybe this time I’ll let it bite!”
Max swallowed. The truth was, she didn’t know what the cobbler might do; she was going on gut instinct here. That and a little bit of hard-earned experience.
“I guess you could do that,” she said. “But it seems a lot more trouble than it’s worth. Plus, I’ve never met an elf or elfling that mean.”
The cobbler snorted. “Then you obviously haven’t met that many.”
As if summoned, Mrs. Amsel peeked through the open door. “Everyone getting along in here?” she asked sweetly.
Max kept her eyes on the cobbler. “You can knock me down or blow me right out of your shop, but I’ll just come back in. Lock me out, and I’ll knock so loud the whole village will come to see what the racket is.”
The cobbler leveled a sour look at Max, then walked to the window and peered out. “Fine. But come in, the both of you, and shut the door. I don’t want anyone else thinking I am open for business.”
Mrs. Amsel stepped inside and closed the door behind her, but she didn’t move any closer.
Every now and then Max could feel a tiny breeze blow past, like a dog sniffing her fingers.
The cobbler hopped back onto his stool so that he was more or less at eye level with Max. “So, what’s your name, then?”
“And there’s your first mistake,” said the cobbler, pointing a crooked finger at her. “Never give your true name to one of the Folk. Ever. Didn’t your old lady elfling teach you anything about our kind?”
Mrs. Amsel tsked and shook her head. “Such rudeness,” she murmured. “These country elflings are so superstitious.”
“So, I guess that means you won’t tell me your name,” said Max.
Smugly, the cobbler shook his head. “No.”
“Then I guess you’re more afraid of me than I am of you.” This part wasn’t exactly true, especially not with an invisible spirit guard sniffing around her, but she wasn’t about to let this tiny shoe-elf know how nervous she was.
The cobbler squinted at her for a moment, then leaned back on his stool. “What do you want to know?”
Max reached inside her backpack and took out a map. It wasn’t just any mapthis map was unique. In fact, there wasn’t another one like it on two worlds. As she unrolled it across the cobbler’s counter, she watched his expression. At first glance, it looked like a simple map of the Atlantic Ocean separating Europe and North America. But then, when you looked a little closer, you saw odd differences. The shapes of the landmasses were correct, but the usual borders of the nations had been redrawn and given names like The Lost Duchy of the Gray Wild. Where Belgium should be, it read Here Once Dwelled the Hoofed Folk. An arrow pointed across the ocean, with the words West to the Winter Children.
The Peddler’s map, as it was called, was enchanted. It revealed what you needed to see, or where you needed to go. On the Summer Isle, it had shown Max and her friends the whole magical island. After Max returned to Hamelin, the map had shown her the world pretty much as it was, and seemed to be telling her that she needed to travel back to the States, to New York City. Lately the map had begun to change yet again, as it became a map of a world that no longer was. It revealed a world of magic that was long gone. It was a map of ghosts.
“Where did you get this?” breathed the cobbler, his eyes wide.
This was the part of Max’s story that was hardest to tell. “I got it when I was on the Summer Isle,” she said quietly. “My brother and I were kidnapped by the Pied Piper and taken there.”
“The Piper of Hamelin?” asked the cobbler. “Like the story?”
“He’s not just a story. Eight hundred years ago he stole Hamelin’s children, and last month he came for my brother and me. Even though it’s been centuries here in our world, on the Summer Isle the children of Hamelin are still just kids. Time doesn’t really work there.”
“Even if what you say is true, what would the Piper want with you?” asked the cobbler, and he glanced worriedly out his window. He probably thought Max was putting him in danger by just being there, and the truth was, she might have been. There was much still that she didn’t understand about the Piper’s plans.
“I don’t know. We were in Hamelin because my dad was searching for some kind of lost story about the Piper, so maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe it got his attention or something. All I know for sure is the Piper came for us in Hamelin, and we woke up on the Summer Isle. Then the Piper used my brother to free himself from prison. I escaped, but Carter’s still back there with the rest of the Hamelin children. When I got back, my father had gone missing. We can’t reach my mother in New York, and I’m afraid someone has taken her, too, and I . . . I just want my family back.”
Mrs. Amsel stepped up behind Max and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Such a strong girl,” she whispered.
The cobbler looked at Max for a few moments with unmistakable disbelief. Then he looked past her to Mrs. Amsel. “The Summer Isle? Can it really be?”
“It’s true,” she said, with a sad nod.
“But the land of magic has been lost to us for centuries,” said the cobbler. “No one has crossed between the Summer Isle and this world since . . .”