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The Book Without Words
Hyperion, 2005
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The Book Without Words: a Fable of Medieval Magic

The Book Without Words is a volume of blank parchment pages. Or so it might seem. But for a green-eyed reader filled with great desire, it may reveal the dark magic of Northumbria, including the forgotten arts of making gold and achieving immortality. For generations its magic has been protected from those who would exploit it. But on a terrible day of death and destruction, The Book Without Words falls into the hands of a desperate boy.

Many years later, that boy, Thorston, is an old man on the brink of realizing his dangerous dream—when he falls down, dead. Now his servant, Sybil, and his magical talking raven, Odo, must face their fate. With their master gone, will they be evicted into the cold, decaying streets of Fulworth to fend for themselves? Or can they somehow unlock the secrets of The Book Without Words and reap the presumed benefits of limitless gold and eternal life? But Sybil and Odo soon learn that nothing is as it appears to be: secrets are not secrets, gold is not gold. Most important of all, even their master’s death and their own lives are not certain.

Set in early medieval England and rich with mystery and atmosphere, this is a thought-provoking fable about life and death, greed and betrayal, magic and secrets.

Behind the Book

Avi writes: I had been reading something about alchemists, those who practiced early science along with magic. They worked during the Middle Ages. The two primary goals of alchemy was to make gold, and to find a way to live forever. In my reading, I came upon the title of a book that some alchemists claimed to use. It was called The Book Without Words, a book of magic, which only (of course) alchemists could read. To all others it looked like a blank book. Thinking of this book led me to the story that became The Book Without Words.

Awards and Honors

Children’s Book-of-the-Month selection
Review, Publishers Weekly, 2005
Booksense Children's Picks for Fall 2005
New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age, 2005
Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year List, 2006


“ … will surely keep readers turning pages. Odo’s cleverness and cynicism make him a likable character, while Sybil’s innate goodness will endear her to readers. Clearly this is a story with a message, a true fable. Thoughtful readers will devour its absorbing plot and humorous elements, and learn a useful truth along the way.” (School Library Journal)

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