Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Gorgeous cover design by Helen Robinson
Editor: Joy Neaves

Dell bolted upright. Something was out there.

That's how Ricki Thompson begins her book. With an adrenaline rush.

She crawled around her brother, who lay curled under his blanket. Father’s pallet was empty. She crept out of the cave.

Nothing. Only a crumbling in the fire. And the restless shifting of rabbits. Then a rustling sound. The Brown Boy, come to see her? She squinted into the darkness.

No, of course not. The Brown Boy never came this far up the mountain. A weasel, mayhap, prowling in the brush. She picked up a rock, threw it. Silence.

And that’s how Thompson reels the reader in. With mystery. And a reason to love the main character. I worried for Dell immediately. And like Dell, I couldn’t wait to see the Brown Boy.

And later? When I met him? I fell in love.

This 16th century novel had me from the first sentence and held me to the end. (A rare one-evening read for me.)

Setting: England
Time: 1536
Monarch: King Henry VIII (uh oh!)
Historical context: English Reformation - King Henry VIII breaks with the Catholic Church and the consequences for those who resist, are grim.

Protagonist: Odelia, although she doesn’t know at first that this is her name. There is so much that Dell doesn’t know about herself. She only knows that she lives in a cave on a mountain with an angry (grieving) father, a vulnerable brother, and a religious aunt.

She knows a bit about her dead mother but not enough. And to ask for more information is to invite the wrath of her aunt. To ask her drunken father would be unthinkable.

Below them is the City of Cannibals where she must never go because her father has told her that the people there would eat her.

Monthly, however, the Brown Boy delivers a sack of gifts. Father always sends Dell to pick them up with the instructions to stay hidden. From her hiding place, Dell watches the Boy make his deliveries to her mother’s grave. From this distance, she falls in love.

Her father’s anger forces her to flee the mountain and consequently, she takes her chances in the City of Cannibals. She searches for the Boy - the one person she believes she'll be safe with and finds some fascinating characters.

Most importantly she finds herself.

There are characters to hate in this book – Auntie and Father (although the reader eventually finds compassion for them) King Henry VIII and Lord Cromwell who instigated all the grief in the first place.

And there are characters to love. Odelia’s dead mother, Margery the fishmonger’s daughter, John the Joiner, and of course, The Brown Boy.

But perhaps my favorite is a puppet. Bartholomew is an alter ego of sorts. The voice of wisdom, the side of Dell who hungers for more knowledge of her history and insists on being true to self. He sounds serious and he is but he made me laugh a lot too.

The City of Cannibals takes on a heavy subject (which is probably why I liked it) but it never bogs down and the humor and the romance make the difficult subject palatable. The mystery, complex characters, and the tension made me devour it.

The book is published by Front Street who, beginning in April, will cooperate with Namelos to offer free downloads for your E reader.

As far as I can tell, you have nothing to lose and a great story to gain! Even if you have to buy the book! (For Readers 13 and up)


  1. I have to read this book now too. SOunds great. Loved the opening!
    Hey...I wouldn't mind being a guest blogger...if you ever run out of people to interview. I could talk about how hard it is to write historical fiction (and how much fun it is to have someone lend you their memory book from 1948!)

  2. Sure Carol! Would love for you to be a guest blogger. Let me know when you are ready.