Matthew Skelton's debut novel features two storylines that intertwine like snakes across the centuries to lead us on a search for the book of all knowledge and power, ENDYMION SPRING.
"The story it appears, is still writing itself."
In 1452 Mainz, Germany, the young printer's devil, Endymion Spring, slaves for his master, Herr Gutenberg, whose moveable-type printing press is causing quite the ruckus. People claim that his perfectly copied Bibles are the work of magic and devilry, while others think he has the power to change the printing world forever. His invention becomes enshrouded further in mystique as a mysterious investor, Johann Fust (a.k.a. Faust), shows up at Gutenberg's door with a serpent-engraved chest and a proposition for business.
"When Summer and Winter in Autumn divide
The Sun will uncover a Secret inside."
In modern-day Oxford, England, Blake Winters visits the college with his sister Duck and his mother Juliet, a skilled researcher excited about studying at the famed university. While their mom is off in the world of research, Blake and his sister wander through St. Jerome's College Library and accidentally stumble across an ancient tome, a book that Blake soon discovers is the furthest thing from ordinary. All of its pages are blank!
"The printed word is sacred."
Why would a library keep a blank book with a broken clasp? This question bothers Blake until he sees the words appear on the page, words no one else can see but him. This unbelievable experience takes him down a road of conspiracies and competitions, one in which he'll encounter a lunatic collector of rare books, a nosy Oxford professor, a peculiar homeless man, Mephistopheles the cat, an origami dragon, unfinished grammar homework, All Souls College, secret staircases, the Shadow, and THE LAST BOOK. He soon learns that no adult can be trusted, not even his parents --- not with something so important on the line.
"If life has taught me one thing, there is nothing so loyal and true as the written word."
One of the wonderful things about books is the power they have to "stay with you long after you read them, lingering in the unswept corners of your mind." This is just such a book. Skelton is a master of words, wielding a high-level vocabulary in the smoothest of manners to paint his dark and captivating world. While the complex nature of the language, combined with the scholastic focus of the story, might turn off some readers, its enrapturing chase through the halls of modern-day Oxford and the streets of bygone Mainz will carry other readers swiftly along, intriguing them all the way to the finish.
ENDYMION SPRING is a fine debut, and we undoubtedly can expect great things from this author in the future.
Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens on August 12, 2008