Fifteen-year-old Dany lives in Gottika, a city ruled by the fearful Count Pol who enforces a strict code of conduct for those who disobey. As members of the Stoons, descendants of the Kabbalists, Dany’s family keep to themselves in the southwest corner of the town, but the laws are even more rigid for their small sect; Stoons cannot own land, carry weapons, and are marked by being forced to wear a special beret. When rumors escalate and Rob-Shimshon, an esteemed elder, is accused of murder and subsequently tortured and arrested, Dany’s father appears before the court and pleads for his friend’s innocence, only to be laughed at and dismissed. Soon after, Dali, Dany’s cousin, is chosen by the Count to live in his castle and become his concubine.
By turning her back on her family, Dali has shamed the Stoons and she is considered dead by the whole community. Dali’s family holds a prayer service, and, in the Stoon tradition, mourns for a week by candlelight. Judah cannot helplessly stand by. In desperation, he calls upon his gift of magic to create a Gol, a man of clay to help protect his people. Moish, as he is fondly named, stays close to Dany’s side, and rescues him time and time again as he narrowly escapes the clutches of Gottikan soldiers. In a harrowing climax in which Dany rescues the missing princess Avivia, Dany learns from the Queen that the two sects, Stoon and Gottika, have bloodlines that are more closely related than previously revealed, and that her daughter is actually a Stoon. A truce comes to the land and the harsh Stoon laws are repealed. Dany feels it is time to release Moish from his duties and as “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” he removes the Hebrew letters from the Gol’s forehead and gives him peace.
Based on the legend of the Jewish golem, this compelling saga is a thrilling, action– packed fantasy that is highly appealing. Detailed black-and-white comics are scattered throughout the text and give the feel of a graphic novel. Dany is a well-drawn protagonist and readers will relate to his plight as he is forced to confront difficult emotional truths about himself and the world around him. Coupled with Golem by David Wisniewski (Clarion, 1996), this would be an excellent addition to a high school reader’s collection.
Recommended for ages 14 and up.