I read some good reviews of this one, saw it on the shelf, and the rest took care of itself.
Book in a nutshell:
We have a mysterious first-person narrator, whose name we later learn is Cai. He calls himself the Ghost, and he is a thief in Constantinople. We learn slowly about his family, his life, his world - and then, through a jumble of catastrophes, he is taken on a slave ship to Dark Ages Britain. There he learns that there was a good deal more about his parents than they told him, and that his thieving talents may be due to a little more than natural caution...
I loved this book very much. I liked Cai - a very realistic person, not always sure what to do, not always positive what's the right thing. He second-guesses himself, regrets his past mistakes, and tries to do the best with where he ends up. I loved his ability to land on his feet wherever he found himself.
The front of the book calls this "a companion to Bloodline." I don't know much about Bloodline, but this is a strong enough tale on its own.
Can I also mention that I love the cover? I believe the scene is actually mentioned in the book, as well as being a symbolic sort of picture.
The plot is a little hard to follow at parts, and I advise people to try to keep track of who's who. Names get thrown around a good deal. I think it would have been easier if I knew more of the Dark Ages history Ms. Moran was alluding to... But it never made me stop reading, though I did have to go back and check who someone was.
This book is a bit of a mix-up, genre-wise: somewhat fantasy, somewhat political, somewhat just an adventure. There's a lot of Cai's introspection as well. I think it's YA, though I've seen it called MG: there's a lot of strong language, and violence at the end.
The writing style is cryingly beautiful in many places, and always skilled. Some quotes:
It is one of those nights when my city feels alive. The crowds surging through her streets are her blood, the jumble of buildings her ancient bones. It's quicker to go by the alleys, but I race up the Mese, anyway...
But I will reach him first, and we'll get away - by sea, most likely. There's always some boatman willing to look the other way if the coin's enough. Oh, my beloved city. I cannot bear this; I cannot bear to see her, smell her, for the last time. I cannot bear to look on the lamplit windows, the shadows of the grapevines as they droop down from the rooftops to the streets, the great dome of Santa Sofia, mother of all churches. I am leaving the perfumiers' quarter, and the rich, rolling scent of rose oil, spikenard, cloves, ambergris, and lavender makes me want to weep because I am smelling it for the last time. Now I am running past a tavern, and the smash of broken cups, the roaring of drunken men, is my city's farewell song.
One thing I know: I shall stay away from girl folk as long as I can. Trouble finds me quick enough as it is.
I gaze up at the skeins of fog silvered by the moon. It is full, round, and cold, so huge and far away, like a great silver dish. What a price she'd fetch if she were plucked from the night and sold. It is the same moon that shone on me when I was lord of the thieves, lord over the City of the Rising Moon.
I fondly love this book; I shall buy it someday, likely enough. I like books of non-circular traveling - I like books where the characters don't have infallible instincts - I like mysterious pasts slowly revealed. Also, I like covers that aren't a photograph of an odd-looking teenage female.
Is there a sequel? I'd be glad to travel with Cai for many a mile yet.
Age rec: Well, there's frequent swearing. A few mentions of nasty content, but nothing indecent shown onstage or anywhere near the stage. Very little romance, though there is a bit. I say 12 and up seems wise, though if parents give it a once-over they might try it with younger kids.