It is 1492 and King Claudio has heard that someone in Venice has written a manuscript that explains a magical method for making money. King Claudio then orders Magnus the Magnificent (and Fabrizio, Magnus’s assistant) to go to Venice and steal the manuscript. To fail will mean death, but Venice doesn’t look kindly on magic or magicians and to get caught will also mean death.
Fabrizio (who is the focus of the book) talks a bit too freely and Magnus is thrown in a Venice jail, but the mission to steal the manuscript is still important.
Fabrizio befriends a girl by the name of Bianca. She lives mostly on her own – her father has been away on a voyage and her uncle who operates a canal boat keeps an eye on her. Bianca is resourceful and manages to get Fabrizio into the jail where Magnus is being held (and where his health is failing) who instructs Fabrizio to continue on with the mission.
It takes some doing, but Fabrizio and Bianca do find the man with the manuscript explaining the magical money-making method. But of course they aren’t the only ones looking for it. When Fabrizio was talking a bit too freely …? Others are now also looking for this special book. But the author, a monk, tries to explain that there’s nothing magical about it … it’s an accounting method to keep better track of money, which only makes it look like it is creating money. Still, it’s valuable to Fabrizio and Magnus (who is rescued from prison) as they return to manuscript to King Claudio (who clearly doesn’t understand it, but is happy to get it).
This is an Avi book, and if you aren’t already familiar with his work then you need to get over to the library and read as many of his books as you can.
I really like that this (along with one of the last books I read by the author) is set in this 15th Century time period. There is definitely a sense of wonder and magic that comes with this time period (and the location of Venice!) and it provides some great opportunities for the author to toss in some teaching moments – something that is often found in these kinds of children’s and middle grade reader books.
The story moves along swiftly but we never feel that we sacrifice any story for the pace. The characters are just a little bit ‘simple’ – not too deeply defined – but it is all quite appropriate for the target audience and I actually really liked all the characters in the book.
Looking for a good book? It’s really fantastic that Avi is still writing these really great books for young (and older) readers, and City of Magic is an excellent read.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review.
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City of Magic
series: Midnight Magic #3
publisher: Scholastic Press
hardcover, 304 pages