rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is set in that vaguely-Renaissancey Italy, the one where all good fairy tales are set (when they're not in that equally vaguely-Renaissancy France). The people here are ruled by a superstitious Prince and his equally superstitious (and stupid) son - magic is forbidden. Fabrizio, an orphan, works for Magnus, a Magician. Now, it's clear that Magnus is a card-trick magician, but to Fabrizio (and the Prince) he's The Real Deal.
A man in a black cloak warns Magnus that his life is in danger, and sure enough, it is. Some writing comes to light, all pages exactly the same, and that can only be done by magic (which is against the law). Fabrizio is sent to collect all the papers and try to find out from where they came, but is caught and brought to the palace to be tried for treason. He escapes, and meets Maria, a printer's devil (as she says, "this kingdom is such a backward, stupid place it has no printing press. It may be 1490, but you all dress, talk, act and think as though it were still the Dark Ages" and yes, that's an anachronism).
After several betrayals, trials and troubles, Fabrizio helps his master prove that it was the prince's son that was plotting against his own father and all is well. Except for Maria, who with her family is moving to a more up-to-date city.
Younger students may enjoy the mystery and the "magic", and of course it's Avi so there's already a huge following. Older students may just get annoyed (as I often did) at Fabrizio's stupidity and at everyone's habit of asking questions and not listening to (or allowing) the answer.
View all my reviews.