Helaine Beck­er, Alexan­der Grig­gs-Burr, illus.
  • Review
By – December 11, 2015

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 A truce comes to the land and the harsh Stoon laws are repealed.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.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

Discussion Questions