The Count de Muguet was a cruel man. Indeed, his reputation made it easy to believe that he killed his wife and her midwife after his second son died at birth.
Fifteen year old Beatrice knows personally the tyrant's vicious nature. He executed her father without investigating false accusations of theft, forcing Beatrice to leave home and live in a small sea village with Mattie, her nurse, and Mattie's brother, Pons. When Luc comes to work with Pons, none of them suspect that this handsome, refined boy could be connected to the Count in any way.
Luc welcomes the change, having spent his childhood working for his alcoholic father. The foursome enjoy a comfortable routine, until Saracens kidnap Luc and sell him to a learned Arab in Africa. Salah sees the boys' potential and trains him in the art of medicine. Luc, however, resents his new master. Will he ever return to France and his life as a fisherman?
Constance Leeds' young adult adventure has an engaging, complex plot that will appeal to early teens. Beatrice and Luc are realistic characters. Luc in particular learns to accept his situation, turn tragedy to his advantage, forgive wrongs and remain loyal. Leeds' writing style is somewhat simplistic. While the books' reading level is accessible to pre-teens, its language makes it more appropriate for older readers. In addition, her ending may be disappointing. An apparent attempt at an open-ended story gives the impression that the author was not sure how to resolve loose ends. That said, this fast moving novel should keep even reluctant readers' attention.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.