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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.

Story Behind the Story

When the phone call came telling me that I had won the Newbery award forĀ Crispin: The Cross of Lead, truly, my very first thought was, The next book had better be good.

How to explain? It’s my experience that writers, despite an outward appearance of cheerful belief in their own talent, are quite often, in fact, insecure. It’s not hard to explain why: you sit alone and work for long periods of time on a project. You are constantly thinking, is this right? Is this any good? Will anyone like it? read more

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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