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The left hand of God / Paul Hoffman.

By: Hoffman, Paul.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: London : Penguin, 2010Description: 499 p. ; 20 cm.ISBN: 9780141042374.Subject(s): Teenage boys -- Fiction | Monasteries -- Fiction | Premiers' Reading Challenge : 9-10DDC classification: 823.92 Summary: The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is named after a damned lie for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary'. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers: vast, desolate, hopeless. Where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith. Lost in the Sanctuary's huge maze of corridors is a boy: his age uncertain, his real name unknown. They call him Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming - and violent. But when he opens the wrong door at the wrong time he witnesses an act so horrible he must flee, or die. The Redeemers will go to any lengths to get Cale back. Not because of the secret he has discovered. But because of a more terrifying secret that lies undiscovered in himself.
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Item type Current location Collection Call number Status Date due Barcode Item reserves
Junior Deer Park Library
Teenage Fiction T HOFF Available I7245758
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Originally published: London: Michael Joseph, 2010.

The Sanctuary of the Redeemers is named after a damned lie for there is no redemption that goes on there and less sanctuary'. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers: vast, desolate, hopeless. Where children endure brutal cruelty and violence in the name of the One True Faith. Lost in the Sanctuary's huge maze of corridors is a boy: his age uncertain, his real name unknown. They call him Cale. He is strange and secretive, witty and charming - and violent. But when he opens the wrong door at the wrong time he witnesses an act so horrible he must flee, or die. The Redeemers will go to any lengths to get Cale back. Not because of the secret he has discovered. But because of a more terrifying secret that lies undiscovered in himself.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

1 Listen. The Sanctuary of the Redeemers on Shotover Scarp isnamed after a damned lie, for there is no redemption that goes on thereand less sanctuary. The country around it is full of scrub and spindlyweeds and you can barely tell the difference between summer andwinter -- which is to say that it is always bloody freezing no matter whatthe time of year. The Sanctuary itself is visible for miles when there isno filthy smog obscuring it, which is rare, and is made of flint, concreteand rice flour. The flour makes the concrete harder than rock and thisis one of the reasons that the prison, for this is what it truly is, has resistedthe many attempts to take it by siege, attempts now consideredso futile that no one has tried to take Shotover Sanctuary for hundredsof years. It is a stinking, foul place and no one except the Lord Redeemersgo there willingly. Who are their prisoners, then? This is the wrongword for those who are taken to Shotover, because "prisoners" suggestsa crime and they, none of them, have offended any law made by man orGod. Nor do they look like any prisoner you will ever have seen: thosewho are brought here are all boys under the age of ten. Depending ontheir age when they enter, it may be more than fifteen years before theyleave and then only half will do so. The other half will have left in ashroud of blue sacking and been buried in Ginky's Field, a graveyardthat begins under the walls. This graveyard is vast, spreading as far asyou can see, so you will have some idea of the size of Shotover and howvery hard it is even to stay alive there. No one knows his way round allof it and it is as easy to get lost within its endless corridors that twistand turn, high and low, as in any wilderness. There is no change in theway it looks -- every part of it looks much the same as every other part:brown, dark, grim and smelling of something old and rancid. Standing in one of these corridors is a boy looking out of a windowand holding a large, dark blue sack. He is perhaps fourteen or fifteenyears old. He is not sure and neither is anyone else. He has forgottenhis real name because everyone who comes here is rebaptized with thename of one of the martyrs of the Lord Redeemers -- and there aremany of them on account of the fact that, time out of mind, everyonethey have failed to convert has hated their guts. The boy staring outof the window is called Thomas Cale, although no one ever uses hisfirst name, and he is committing a most grievous sin by doing so. What drew him to the window was the sound of the NorthwestGate groaning as it always did on one of its rare openings, like somegiant with appallingly painful knees. He watched as two Lords in theirblack cassocks stepped over the threshold and ushered in a small boy ofabout eight, followed by another slightly younger and then another.Cale counted twenty in all before another brace of Redeemers broughtup the rear and slowly and arthritically the gate began to close. Cale's expression changed as he leaned forward to see out of theclosing gate and into the Scablands beyond. He had been outsidethe walls on only six occasions since he had come here more than adecade before -- it was said, the youngest child ever brought to theSanctuary. On these six occasions he was watched as if the lives of hisguards depended on it (which they did). Had he failed any of these sixtests, for that was what they were, he would have been killed on thespot. Of his former life he could remember nothing. As the gate shut, he turned his attention to the boys again. Noneof them was plump, but they had the round faces of young children.All were wide-eyed at the sight of the keep, its immense size, its hugewalls, but, though bewildered and scared simply by the strangenessof their surroundings, they were not afraid. Cale's chest filled withdeep and strange emotions that he could not have given a name to. But,lost in them as he was, his talent for keeping one ear alive to whateverwas going on around him saved him, as it had so many times in thepast. He moved away from the window and walked on down thecorridor. "You! Wait!" Cale stopped and turned round. One of the Redeemers, hugelyfat with folds of skin hanging over the edge of his collar, was standingin one of the doorways off the passage, steam and odd sounds emergingfrom the room behind him. Cale looked at him, his expressionunchanged. "Come here and let me see you." The boy walked toward him. "Oh, it's you," said the fat Redeemer. "What are you doing here?" "The Lord of Discipline sent me to take this to the drum." He heldup the blue sack he was carrying. "What did you say? Speak up!" Cale knew, of course, that the fat Redeemer was deaf in one ear,and he had deliberately spoken quietly. Cale repeated himself, this time shouting loudly. "Are you trying to be funny, boy?" "No, Redeemer." "What were you doing by the window?" "The window?" "Don't play me for a fool. What were you doing?" "I heard the Northwest Gate being opened." "Did you, by God?" This seemed to distract him. "They're early." He grunted with annoyance and then turned andlooked back into the kitchen, for that was who the fat man was: theLord of Vittles, overseer of the kitchen from which the Redeemerswere well fed and the boys hardly at all. "Twenty extra for dinner," heshouted into the evil-smelling steam behind him. He turned back toCale. "Were you thinking when you were by that window?" "No, Redeemer." "Were you daydreaming?" "No, Redeemer." "If I catch you loitering again, Cale, I'll have the hide off you.Hear me?" "Yes, Redeemer." The Lord of Vittles turned back into the room and began to closethe door. As he did so, Cale spoke softly but quite distinctly, so thatanyone not hard of hearing would have picked it up. "I hope you choke on it, you lardy dritsek." The door slammed shut, and Cale headed off down the corridordragging the large sack behind him. It took nearly fifteen minutes, runningmost of the way, before he came to the drum located at the end ofits own short passageway. It was called the drum because that was whatit looked like, as long as you disregarded the fact that it was six feet talland embedded in a brick wall. On the other side of the drum was aplace sealed off from the rest of the Sanctuary where, it was rumored,there lived twelve nuns who cooked for the Redeemers only and washedtheir clothes. Cale did not know what a nun was and had never seenone, although from time to time he did talk to one of them through thedrum. He did not know what made nuns different from other women,who were spoken of rarely and only then with distaste. There were twoexceptions: the Hanged Redeemer's Holy Sister and the Blessed ImeldaLambertini, who at the age of eleven had died of ecstasy during her firstcommunion. The Redeemers had not explained what ecstasy was, andno one was foolish enough to ask. Cale gave the drum a spin, and thenit turned on its axis, revealing a large opening. He dumped the bluesack inside and gave it another spin, then he banged on the side, causingit to emit a loud boom. He waited for thirty seconds, and then amuffled voice spoke from the other side of the drum wall: "What is it?" Cale put his head next to the drum so he could be heard, his lipsalmost touching the surface. "Redeemer Bosco wants this back by tomorrow morning," heshouted. "Why didn't it come with all the others?" "How the hell would I know?" There was a high-pitched cry of muffled rage from the other sideof the drum. "What's your name, you impious pup?" "Dominic Savio," lied Cale. "Well, Dominic Savio, I'll report you to the Lord of Discipline andhe'll have the hide off you." "I couldn't care less." Twenty minutes later Cale arrived back at the Lord Militant's trainingburoo. It was empty except for the Lord himself, who did not look up orgive any sign that he had seen Cale. He continued to write in his ledgerfor another five minutes before speaking, still without looking up. "What took you so long?" "The Lord of Vittles stopped me in the corridor of the outerbanks." "Why?" "He heard a noise outside, I think." "What noise?" Finally, the Lord Militant looked at Cale. His eyeswere a pale, almost watery blue, but sharp. They did not miss much.Or anything. "They were opening the Northwest Gate to let in the freshboys.He wasn't expecting them today. I'd say his nose was out of joint." "Hold your tongue," said the Lord Militant, but mildly by hisunforgiving standards. Cale knew that he despised the Lord of Vittles,and hence he felt it less dangerous to speak in such a way of aRedeemer. "I asked your friend about the rumor they'd arrived," said theRedeemer. "I have no friends, Redeemer," replied Cale. "They're forbidden." The Lord Militant laughed softly, not a pleasant sound. "I have no worries about you on that score, Cale. But if we mustplod -- the scrawny blond-haired one. What do you call him?" "Henri." "I know his given name. You have a moniker for him." "We call him Vague Henri." The Lord Militant laughed, but this time there was the echo ofsome ordinary good humor. "Very good," he said appreciatively. "I asked him what time thefreshboys had arrived and he said he wasn't sure, sometime betweeneight bells and nine. I then asked him how many there were and he saidfifteen or so, but it might have been more." He looked Cale straight inthe eyes. "I thrashed him to teach him to be more specific in future.What do you think of that?" "It's all the same to me, Redeemer," replied Cale flatly. "He deservedwhatever punishment you gave him." "Really? How very gratifying you should think so. What time didthey arrive?" "Just before five." "How many were there?" "Twenty." "What ages?" "None younger than seven. None older than nine." "Of what kind?" "Four Mezos, four Uitlanders, three Folders, five half-castes, threeMiamis and one I didn't know." The Lord Militant grunted as if only barely satisfied that all hisquestions had been answered so precisely. "Go over to the board. I'veset a puzzle for you. Ten minutes." Cale walked over to a large table, twenty feet by twenty, on whichthe Lord Militant had rolled out a map, which fell slightly over theedges. It was easy to recognize some of the things drawn there -- hills,rivers, woods -- but on the remainder there were numerous small blocksof wood on which were written numbers and hieroglyphs, some of theblocks in order, some apparently chaotic. Cale stared at the map for hisallotted time and then looked up. "Well?" said the Lord Militant. Cale began to set out his solution. Twenty minutes later he finished, his hands still held out in frontof him. "Very ingenious. Impressive, even," said the Lord Militant. Somethingin Cale's eyes changed. Then with extraordinary speed the LordMilitant lashed the boy's left hand with a leather belt studded with tinybut thick tacks. Cale winced and his teeth ground together in pain. But quicklyhis face returned to the watchful coldness that was these days all thatthe Redeemer ever saw from him. The Lord Militant sat down andconsidered the boy as if he were an object both interesting and yetunsatisfactory. "When will you learn that to do the clever thing, the original thing,is merely your pride controlling you? This solution may work, but it'sunreasonably risky. You know very well the tried solution to this problem.In war a dull success is always better than a brilliant one. You hadbetter learn to understand why." He banged the table furiously. "Have you forgotten that a Redeemer has the right to kill instantlyany boy who does something unexpected?" There was another crash as he hit the table again, stood up andglared at Cale. Blood, not a great amount, dripped from the four holesin Cale's still-outstretched left hand. "No one else would have indulgedyou the way I have. The Lord of Discipline has his eye on you. Everyfew years he likes to set an example. Do you want to end up as an Actof Faith?" Cale stared ahead and said nothing. "Answer me!" "No, Lord." "Do you think you are needful, you useless Zed?" "No, Lord." "This is my fault, my fault, my most grievous fault," said the LordMilitant, striking his breast with his hand three times. "You havetwenty-four hours to consider your sins and then you will debase yourselfbefore the Lord of Discipline." "Yes, Redeemer." "Now, get out." Dropping his hands to his side, Cale turned and walked to thedoor. "Don't bleed on the mat," called out the Lord Militant. Cale opened the door with his good hand and left.Alone in his cell the Lord Militant watched the door close. As itclicked shut, his expression changed from that of barely constrainedrage to one of thoughtful curiosity. Outside in the corridor Cale stood for a moment in the horriblebrown light that infected everywhere in the Sanctuary and examinedhis left hand. The wounds were not deep, because the studs in thebelt had been designed to cause intense pain without taking long toheal. He made a fist and squeezed, his head shaking as if a small tremorwere taking place deep inside his skull as the blood from his handdripped heavily onto the floor. Then he relaxed his hand, and in thegrim light a look of horrible despair crept over his face. In a moment itwas gone, and Cale walked on down the corridor and out of sight. None of the boys in the Sanctuary knew how many of them there were.Some claimed there were as many as ten thousand and growing morewith every month. It was the increase that occupied the conversationsmost. Even among those nearing twenty years old there was agreementthat, until the last five years, the number, whatever it was, had remainedsteady. But since then there had been a rise. The Redeemers were doingthings differently, itself an ominous and strange thing: habit and con-formity to the past were to them like air to those who breathe. Everyday should be like the next day, every month like the next month. Noyear should be different from another year. But now the great increasein numbers had required change. The dormitories had been alteredwith bunks of two and even three tiers to accommodate new arrivals.Divine service was held in staggered rosters so that all might pray andstore up every day the tokens against damnation. And now meals weretaken in relays. But as for the reasons behind this change, the boysknew nothing. Cale, his left hand wrapped in a dirty piece of linen previouslythrown away by the washerserfs, walked through the huge refectoryfor the second sitting carrying a wooden tray. Late to arrive, thoughnot too late -- for this he would have been beaten and excluded -- hewalked toward the large table at the end of the room where he alwaysate. He stopped behind another boy, about the same age and heightbut so intent on eating that he did not notice Cale standing behindhim. It was the others at the table whose raised heads alerted him. Helooked up. "Sorry, Cale," he said, shoving the remains of his food into hismouth at the same time as he stepped out from behind the bench andhurried off carrying his tray. Cale sat down and looked at his supper: there was something thatlooked like a sausage, but was not, covered in a watery gravy with someindeterminate root vegetable bleached by endless boiling into a yellowypale mush. In a bowl beside it was porridge, gelatinous and cold andgray as week-old slush. For a moment, starving as he was, he couldn'tbring himself to start eating. Then someone pushed his way ontothe bench beside him. Cale didn't look at him but started to eat. Onlythe slight twitch at the edge of his mouth revealed what filthy stuffit was. The boy who had pushed in next to him started to speak, but solow was his voice that only Cale could hear. It was unwise to be caughtspeaking to another boy at mealtimes. "I found something," said the boy, the excitement clear even thoughhe was barely audible. "Good for you," replied Cale without emotion. "Something wonderful." This time Cale did not react at all, instead concentrating on gettingthe porridge down without gagging. There was a pause from the boy. "There's food. Food you can eat." Cale barely raised his head, butthe boy next to him knew that he had won. "Why should I believe you?" "Vague Henri was with me. Meet us at seven behind the HangedRedeemer." With that the boy stood up and was gone. Cale raised his head, and astrange look of longing came over his face, so different from the coldmask he usually showed the world that the boy opposite stared at him. "Don't you want that?" said the boy, eyes bright with hope as if therancid sausage and waxy gray porridge offered more joy than he couldeasily comprehend. Cale did not reply or look at the boy but began eating again, forcinghimself to swallow and trying not to be sick. When he had finished, Cale took his wooden tray to the cleanorium,scrubbed it in the bowl with sand and put it back in its rack. Onhis way out, watched by a Redeemer sitting in a huge high chair fromwhich he could survey the refectory, Cale knelt in front of the statue ofthe Hanged Redeemer, beat his breast three times and muttered, "I amSin, I am Sin, I am Sin," without the slightest regard for what thewords meant. Outside it was dark and the evening fog had descended. This wasgood; it would make it easier for Cale to slip unnoticed from the ambointo the bushes that grew behind the great statue. By the time he arrived Cale was unable to see more than fifteen feetin front of him. He stepped down from the ambo and onto the gravelin front of the statue. This was the largest of all the holy gibbets in the Sanctuary, andthere must have been hundreds of them, some of them no larger thana few inches, nailed to walls, set in niches, decorating the tubs of holyashes at the end of every corridor and on the spaces above every door.They were so common, so frequently referred to, that the image itselfhad long ago lost any meaning. Nobody, except the freshboys, reallynoticed them for what they were: models of a man hanging from a gallowswith a rope around his neck, his body hatched with scars fromthe torture before his execution, his broken legs dangling at strangeangles beneath him. Holy gibbets of the Hanged Redeemer made duringthe Sanctuary's founding a thousand years before were crude andtended to a straightforward realism: a terror in the eyes and face for allthe lack of carving skill, the body twisted and wracked, the tongueprotruding from the mouth. This, said the carvers, was a horrible wayto die. Over the years the statues had become more skilled but alsomilk-and-water. The great statue, with its huge gallows, its thick ropeand twenty-foot-tall savior dangling from it, was only thirty years old:the weals on his back were pronounced but neat and bloodless. Ratherthan being agonizingly smashed, his legs were held in a pose as if hewere suffering more from cramp. But it was the expression on his facethat was oddest of all -- instead of the pain of strangulation he had alook of inconvenienced holiness, as if a small bone was stuck in histhroat and he was clearing it with a demure cough. Nevertheless, on this night in the fog and the dark the only thingsthat Cale could see of the Redeemer were his huge feet dangling outof the white mist. The oddness of this made him uneasy. Careful not tomake any noise, Cale eased himself into the bushes that obscured himfrom anyone walking past. "Cale?" "Yes." The boy from the refectory, Kleist, and Vague Henri emerged fromthe bushes in front of Cale. "This better be worth the risk, Henri," whispered Cale. "It is, Cale. I promise." Kleist gestured Cale to follow into the bushes against the wall. Itwas even darker here and Cale had to wait for his eyes to adjust. Thetwo others waited. There was a door. This was astonishing -- while there were plenty of doorways in theSanctuary, there were few doors. During the Great Reformation twohundred years before, more than half the Redeemers had been burnedat the stake for heresy. Fearing that these apostates might have contaminatedtheir boys, the victorious sect of Redeemers had cut theirthroats just to be on the safe side. After the restocking of freshboys, theRedeemers had made many changes and one of them had been to removeall the doors wherever there were boys. What, after all, could be the purpose of a door where there weresinners? Doors hid things. Doors were about many devil-type things,they decided, about secrecy, about being alone or with others and up tosomething. The very concept of a door, now that they thought of it,began to make the Redeemers shake with rage and fear. The devil himselfwas no longer just depicted as a horned beast but almost as oftenas a rectangle with a lock. Of course this antipathy toward doors didnot apply to the Redeemers themselves: the very sign of their own redemptionwas the possession of a door to their place of work and theirsleeping cells. Holiness for the Redeemers was measured by the numbersof keys they were allowed to hold on the chain around their waists.To jangle as you walked was to show that you were already being tolledto heaven. This was why the discovery of an unknown door was somethingamazing. Now that his eyes were becoming accustomed to the dark, Calecould see a pile of broken plaster and crumbling bricks piled next to thedoor. "I was hiding from Chetnick," said Vague Henri. "That's how Ifound this place. The plaster on the corner there was falling away, sowhile I waited I picked at it. It was all crumbling -- water had got in. Itonly took half a mo." Cale reached out toward the edge of the door and pushed carefully.Then again, and again. "It's locked." Kleist and Vague Henri smiled. Kleist reached into his pocket andtook out something Cale had never seen in a boy's possession -- a key.It was long and thick and pitted with rust. All their eyes were shiningwith excitement now. Kleist put the key in the lock and turned, gruntingwith the effort. Then, with a clunk ! it shifted. "It took us three days of shoveling in grease and stuff to get it toopen," said Vague Henri, his voice thick with pride. "Where did you get the key?" asked Cale. Kleist and Vague Henriwere delighted that Cale was talking to them as if they had raised thedead or walked on water.v "I'll tell you when we get in. Come on." Kleist put his shoulder tothe door, and the others did the same. "Don't push too hard, the hingesmight be in bad shape. We don't want to make any noise. I'll count tothree." He paused. "Ready? One, two, three." They pushed. Nothing. It wouldn't budge. They stopped, took adeep breath. "One, two, three." They heaved, and then with a screech the door shifted. Theystepped back, alarmed. To be heard was to be caught, to be caught wasto be subject to God knows what. "We could be hanged for this," said Cale. The others lookedat him. "They wouldn't. Not a hanging." "The Militant told me that the Lord of Discipline was lookingfor an excuse to set an example. It's been five years since the lasthanging." "They wouldn't," repeated Vague Henri, shocked. "Yes, they would. This is a door , for God's sake. You have a key."Cale turned to Kleist. "You lied to me. You've got no idea what's inthere. It's probably a dead end, nothing worth stealing, nothing worthknowing." He looked back at the other boy. "It isn't worth the risk,Henri, but it's your neck. I'm out." As he started to turn, a voice called from the ambo, angry andimpatient. "Who's there? What was that noise?" Then they heard the sound of a man stepping onto the gravel infront of the Hanged Redeemer. Excerpted from The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

London-based author Hoffman makes his U.S. debut with this dark fantasy novel featuring 16-year-old Thomas Cale and his friends Kleist and Vague Henry, imprisoned since toddlerhood in an otherworldly fortress to be trained as soldiers by the Redeemers, a group of religious fanatics planning war on their neighbors. When the boys accidentally discover an especially grisly secret, they must escape or be killed. The first entry in a planned trilogy written in the tradition of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, Hoffman's adventure lacks adequate plot structure and character development. Still, actor Steve West adds value to this audio edition, narrating with clarity and flexibility. With its teenage protagonists, many battle scenes, and pseudomedieval setting, this title will appeal to adolescent listeners; parents should be aware it contains violence and cruelty.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-Paul Hoffman's first title (Dutton, 2010) in a projected trilogy is a complex, multilayered fantasy that delves into themes about world domination, personal power, and the fanaticism of religion and warfare. Thomas Cale has been raised by the Redeemers, a religious order that trains young boys to be future warriors in their planned battle against the Antagonists.While Cale is often the victim of more than the usual abuse, when he escapes with three companions-Kleist, Vague Henri, and Riba (a young girl he rescues from a terrible death)-the word goes out that upon capture he should not be killed. When the runaways are picked up by the Materazzi, a militant group from the community of Memphis, we learn that Cale can predict the actions of anyone going into battle againsthim and is also a great strategist.The Materazzi, considered the finest military warriors in the world, have a lot to learn from Cale, whom they do not trust.Romance between Cale and the beautiful Arbell Swan-Neck, daughter of Memphis's ruler, complicates the plot but adds to the story's appeal.Steve West's narration is aloof and seemingly impersonal. His pace allows listeners to feel Cale's innocence as well as his ruthlessness. West seems to be the outside observer, just reporting the facts and their consequences.His narration of the final battle is cold and unrelenting as he dispassionately relates horrific scenes; it's almost too much to bear. A powerful listening experience.-Edith Ching, formerly Washington Latin Public Charter School, DC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

The remote Sanctuary of the Redeemers is a huge, grim fortress. There boys younger than 10 are taken for intensive training in hand-to-hand combat in preparation for a forthcoming holy war that only the high priests know about. Sixteen-year-old Thomas Cale is one of the thousands of boys who endure unspeakable treatment at the hands of the warrior monks. Sensing something special about Cale, the Lord Militant takes charge of his training, making it extremely harsh and driving him to achieve more and more. When Cale comes across a Redeemer performing a vivisection on a girl, he slays the man, rescues another girl, and realizes that to live he must escape into the outside world. What ensues is a riveting tale of pursuit, derring-do, battles, and death. Unfortunately, some intrusive authorial explanatory asides interrupt the narrative flow. Enigmatic Cale is something of a berserker on his dark side, a protector on his good one. Other principals are credible, and the settings the foul sanctuary, barren landscape, and aristocratic city to which Cale flees vivid. A rousing trilogy-opener.--Estes, Sally Copyright 2010 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

The first of a medieval-fantasy trilogy from the author of The Golden Age of Censorship (2008, etc.). At the vast, labyrinthine Sanctuary arrives a seemingly endless supply of orphan boys. Here the religious-fanatic Redeemers attempt to inculcate the boys with their faith while turning them into holy warriors. So unremittingly brutal and sadistic are their methods, however, that it's a miracle that any survive; those that do are tough, sociopathic and accomplished liars. While exploring the Sanctuary's endless corridors, Cale and his friends Kleist and Vague Henri stumble upon a senior Redeemer carefully eviscerating a living girl, while another awaits the same fate. Appalled, the boys rescue the survivor, Riba, and flee thanks to Cale's extraordinary talents. They arrive at Memphis, a sort of waterless Venice ruled by a clan of Italianate Teutonic knights called the Materazzi. Having no breeding or social standing whatsoever, the fugitives are treated with contempt even after Cale easily defeats Conn, the Materazzi's finest young warrior. Eventually, after innumerable complications, for reasons that only become clear at the end, the Redeemers move against Memphis. During all this, the narrative tone switches abruptly between boyish, avuncular, pedagogic, ironic and jocular. Hoffman carefully foreshadows events that never happen, then, having overlooked necessary facts, abruptly blurts them out or digresses for several pages. The randomly assembled, pseudo-medieval backdrop is stuffed with leering modern referents. Yet despite these gaping flaws, the plight of poor, tormented, invincible Cale beguiles, and the book's true power is its utter unpredictability. Judging by the hype, what the publisher hoped for was Lord of Harry Potter's Dark Materials; what it actually secured is, in its own immodest way, engrossing enough. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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