Blake Winters, a young boy visiting Oxford College where his mother is temporarily stationed, is at a lowpoint in his life. When an old, blank book in the library gives him a papercut, however, things changed. Ultimately he realizes he is chosen by an ancient book to protect an immense power long buried and sought by a shadowy figure whose identity is kept secret until the story's end.
If that's not exciting enough, enter the parallel plot. In 1452, a young German printer's devil, Endymion Spring, is working for his printer master, Herr Gutenberg. People are looking askance at Herr's perfectly copied Bibles, calling them the work of magic and devilry, while others are enthralled by his power. Early on in the story, Herr is paid a visit by the evil Johann Fust. Sound familiar? (Faust - the ghastly literary character who presumably sold his soul to the devil for power.) Fust has a proposition and a serpent-locked chest that holds all the answers.
Blake and his sister, Duck, struggle with family problems and pursue the secret of the book that “chose” Blake, while, in his own world, Endymion Spring has troubles of his own as he tries to unlock the secrets of Fust's chest.
Shades of Susan Cooper and Philip Pullman haunt this story, complete with the proverbial religious vein which can be ignored and still retain the story thread. Skelton has also included a historic analysis of the art of book printing. While the overuse of similes and metaphors is a bit distracting, the book is a gem, providing a digestible version of an era worthy of learning, and a plot that holds the reader tighter than bookbinder's glue.
Review by D.