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The Book without Words: A Fable of Medieval Magic

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3.39  ·  Rating Details ·  1,591 Ratings  ·  200 Reviews
IN THE DARK of winter in the town of Fulworth, an old man named Thorston has devoted his life to the illegal practice of alchemy in the quest to uncover the Great Secret: of making gold, and of immortality. Yet just as he is on the brink of a discovery, he keels over, nearly dead.

Thorton's servant, Sybil, and his talking raven, Odo, are filled with dread: will they be thro
...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Disney-Hyperion (first published January 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Emily
Jul 18, 2007 Emily rated it it was ok
I want to give this 2.5 stars. I did like it, but it had a slow beginning and the characters often did things that didn't make sense. A friend correctly told me that Avi is hit and miss. This was certainly a miss, but it was a nice diversion. I do hate to leave a book by the wayside unless it's really awful. The Book Without Words is full of magic and, yes, a bit of fable. If you want, you could extrapolate Jesus or the present U.S. political condition or what have you. Avi's not dumb, he was ...more
Rain Misoa
Oct 26, 2013 Rain Misoa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Avi fans and people who don't mind a rushed story.
Recommended to Rain by: Library
And my Avi kick is still going strong! I have been reading quite a few novels written by Avi lately and I have been enjoying the ride. This one, though I didn't like as much as his other novels, was still a very good read. I liked the story and I liked the writing style but I do have a few minor complaints.

Avi is a fantastic writer. There are no doubts about that. However, I felt as if he rush through this novel a bit too much. The pacing for this book was way too fast. Just when you were gettin
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Maribeth Tomas
Oct 14, 2013 Maribeth Tomas rated it really liked it
Shelves: libs-642
Junior Books Project

Category- Fiction (Literary Folktales)

Source- Textbook pg 151

This book is an exciting tale of three kids and a crow trying to figure out the magic of making gold. The alchemist, Thorston, has left a book without words that contains the secret to making gold and the children are trying to figure out its magic. While this is happening, Thorston has a little magic planned for himself to stay alive and young.

The cover page has a picture of what looks like a room where spells are
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Nesa Sivagnanam
May 27, 2012 Nesa Sivagnanam rated it really liked it
It was in the year 1046, on a cold winter’s night, when a fog, thick as wool and dank as a dead man’s hand, crept up from the River Scrogg into the ancient town of Fulworth.

So begins this fascinating fable. And a true fable it is, woven through with supernatural elements, talking animals, and illustrating a universal truth. The ever-present fog seems a metaphor for evil. It is everywhere in the tale: "It clung to the crumbling city walls . . . It muffled the sound of pealing church bells calling
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Hollowspine
Aug 20, 2014 Hollowspine rated it liked it
Shelves: ya
I listened to this, with a wonderful narrator giving voice to all the characters very effectively. I especially enjoyed the voice of Bashcroft the city reeve.

This book seems to be a hit or miss with many readers either finding the historical fiction engaging or lackluster. A main complaint of those who didn't like the book was that the characters were one dimensional and they didn't change or grow in the course of the book. I did not find that at all.

The main characters, Odo, a Raven with clipp
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Michelle Isenhoff
Jun 16, 2014 Michelle Isenhoff rated it it was amazing
Here's the other Avi book I read over sping break. I just adore him and freely admit he has had a very strong influence on my writing. Once a Newbery winner and twice a Newbery honor winner, his works include some of my favorite titles ever. Though I’ve liked some better than others, I’ve yet to be disappointed by any.

I have to confess, this one is different, and at first I wasn’t sure I would like it. (It does actually have words though.) It starts out with the same rich, powerful sense of sett
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Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com

What defines a life? How can you know that you've really lived your life? These are questions that Sybil has never thought about, until now. Now her master, Thorston, has died, and she and Odo, his talking bird, are likely to end up on the street. Unless they can figure out Thorston's secret for making gold.

Thorston was a magician. Not just an ordinary magician, but an alchemist, concerned with finding eternal life above all else. Now he's dead, a
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Scott
Nov 29, 2009 Scott rated it liked it
I was drawn to the author Avi by his book Crispin: Cross of Lead. This book, The Book Without Words, is good, but not nearly as engaging or colorful as Crispin. It does a passable job of conveying the world of 11th century England, and bringing in some elements of the magic of the alchemists, but in the end the story just seems to fizzle out - there's not really anything of a "climax" to the plot. And, in fact, the last 30 pages or so, I found myself wondering "How much longer is this going to ...more
Lauren Stoolfire
I liked this fable by Avi, even though some of the characters are unlikeable and do dumb things. My favorite character by far was Alfric and I was surprised to see that Odo actually developed the most as a character. I believe I would have liked this more if Avi had really developed the magic, setting, characters, etc, etc., more because there is so much potential here.

I listened to the story on playaway and although the narrator does a great job bringing the characters to life the sound qualit
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Erin
Aug 11, 2011 Erin added it
As a school library volunteer, I get to handle many books. I admit, I was taken by the jacket design and the title. Unfortunately, the interior disappointed. Even for a YA book, the characters were more stock than striking. The premise was bog-standard. Still sticking with The Edge Chronicles as my current pick in YA fantasy. I've seen good reviews of Avi's Crispin novel, so I'll probably give it a try. This one is meh.
Maria
May 09, 2007 Maria rated it really liked it
Shelves: youngreader-5-13
I read this on a car trip this summer when I had finished my book and I hijacked one of the ones my sister wasn't using. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Avi was still awesome because I remembered reading and loving a few good Avi novels when I was younger.
Kathie H
Sep 11, 2007 Kathie H rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Avi creates authentically medieval moods with his writing. I love books with magic, especially during this time in history. And it doesn't hurt that one of the characters is a talking raven. This is a great book to read out loud with the family on rainy, bleak fall & winter nights around the fire.
William
Feb 22, 2009 William is currently reading it
One chapter and I was hooked.
Robin
Oct 27, 2016 Robin rated it really liked it
Odo the raven is a very memorable character in this tale of medieval alchemy and intrigue.
Favorite quote:
"A fool is the first to think himself wise but last to know it isn't so."
laurenpie
Oct 20, 2013 laurenpie rated it did not like it
Shelves: childrens-older
Inconsistent and boring


I've just read two Avi children's books in a row. The first, I Witness: Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859: A Tale of the Old West was excellent: well-thought-out, nicely paced, likeable characters and logical progression. This book, unfortunately, was just the opposite.

In The Book without Words: A Fable of Medieval Magic, the author mentions that he rushed too much in preparing this manuscript, and it does show. He says he edited a lot after the initial reading by
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Emily
Jun 24, 2011 Emily rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Miriam Andrus
It is impressive that Avi is able to have almost the entirety of a book's plot in a dingy hovel of a house at the end of a ruddy lane and still make it interesting. This story of a girl who was a nobody and becomes a somebody as she gains confidence of herself literally saving her life. Although the story lacked a lot of detail, as I find many juvenile fiction novels do, it was still an interesting story involving a bird, a small boy, gold, a wizard, a ghost, a crooked magistrate, and a girl who ...more
Jackie
A creepy, yet kid-friendly story about an evil (sort-of) alchemist, Thorston, his scullery maid, 13-year-old Sybil, and a talking raven named Odo. The trio lives in a dilapidated, boarded-up stone house while Thorston mixes and measures all sorts of foul, sinister concoctions. Sybil, although she fetches his ingredients in the town, has no idea what he uses them for. One day she meets Brother Wilfrid who tells her that Thurston's magic comes from the The Book Without Words which Thorston stole f ...more
Saundra
Jul 14, 2013 Saundra rated it liked it
The Book Without Words, by Avi, was published by Hyperion Books in 2005. This book fits into the supernatural genre. Sybil is the young servant of an alchemist. I enjoy the stories that Avi writes, but have never been particularly impressed with the style of his work. It may be too simplistic for me, I have not read enough to completely figure out why his works do not appeal to me or prompt rereading. This book is appropriate for grades 4-6, and would be most appropriate for individual reading. ...more
gina
Oct 03, 2011 gina rated it it was ok
Characters with confusing motivations. A potentially interesting setting with limited detail. A slow-moving plot that goes almost nowhere. Pages of dialogue that go where the plot goes—nowhere as well. These are the reasons I was so disappointed with The Book without Words.

I would have enjoyed this book if it had delved into the deeper workings of the magic it describes. I might have recommended this book if the characters had compelling stories to tell. I would have put other books by this aut
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Katy Wilmotte
Jul 27, 2014 Katy Wilmotte rated it liked it
As in Thorston's magic pot, beneath all the scum and offal of jerky pacing, inconsistent dialogue, and a stereotyped medieval setting, lurks a charming little story. A reader who is willing to plunge on past the first 40 pages where most of the mess floats may be rewarded with an interesting tale about a magic book that eventually takes what it gives, including so-called eternal life.
The idea of the story is not bad, and once Master Thorston begins dying and returning to life to collect his immo
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Mr
Dec 22, 2008 Mr rated it really liked it
Amy Brantner, 203 pages. This is an interesting book, where you never know what might happen next. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get addicted to a book, (just kidding.)I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in magic, especially dark magic. It is about a man named Master Thorston. Master Thorston has a 13 year old servant, and a talking raven. He is mean and cruel, and he never wants to die. He is afraid of dying so much that he uses a book that he had once stolen, to make ...more
Gene Stevenson
Aug 21, 2016 Gene Stevenson rated it liked it
Fantastic in multiple ways, Avi's story about servant girl Sybil, the talking raven Odo (who wasn't always a raven), and their cruel alchemist master, Thorston, is the fable we didn't know we needed for the 21st century. Curiosity, greed, and the real difference between life and death are some of the major themes readers are invited to ponder, and the truths about these themes discovered by the cast of characters in fictional Fulworth village are at once startling and convicting. Is it possible ...more
Jerrit 811
Dec 01, 2008 Jerrit 811 rated it really liked it
Jerrit Schramm
12-1-08
8-1
The book without Words


This book takes place in the northern ancient province of North Umbria, in a town called Fulwich where a notorious alchemist by the name of Thorston is living and making gold to keep for himself with the help of his black bird named Odo and his 13 year old girl servant named Sybil. Thorston is also working on a potion that makes him live forever. But the potion needed 7 ingredients, shredded gargoyle ears, chimera crumbs, scales from a lizards tale,
...more
Carrie
Jan 11, 2010 Carrie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
Cleverly done! From the start I was hooked. I love to read stories that can take me away to a different place in time plus add an element of magic with it.

Sybil is an orphan and taken in by Thorston who is an alchemist. Thorston fears death and to keep himself alive he must follow the directions of a magic book that has no words and take the life of a child and feathers from a black bird. Sybil, along with Odo, a talking raven, must find the book’s true owner before it’s too late. In their ques
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Luisa
Jul 19, 2014 Luisa rated it liked it
Shelves: new-teens
The Book Without Words: A Fable of Medieval Magic by Avi - Sybil is a lowly servant working for elderly Master Thorston who dabbles in alchemy. Odo the talking raven is certain that learning to make gold will provide him with funds necessary to regain flight, but Thorston has other ideas. His focus is on restoring his life, and he needs Sybil’s breath, her life, to extend his own. This medieval fantasy explores the idea that a life unlived is like a book without words. It is the Book Without ...more
Cassie Borneman
May 28, 2010 Cassie Borneman rated it really liked it
The book without words by Avi is about a 16 year old girl, who is being held captive by a man who tries to turn medieval objects into gold, or an alcemist. The orphan girl is constantly watched over by a cranky talking crow. Then one day, while she is out getting ingrediants for his potion, the girl comes back from her arrends. About five minutes later, her master is dead, lying on the floor. Dead from a heart attack.

However, what the girl does not know, is that before he died, her master had
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Carrie
May 01, 2012 Carrie rated it did not like it
Although I am not necessarily the target audience, as this writer typically targets children, I did not like the story and I'm not sure it would be engaging for a younger audience. It was not entertaining, though literature surely does not have to be entertaining; the characters were not engaging, and almost seemed one-dimensional (as plot movers), which may be due to the omniscient point of view. It was overwrought with morality; much like reading a long parable or a slow moving fairy ...more
Tarina
Mar 08, 2016 Tarina rated it it was amazing
To say I needed, desperately, to read a book like this is an understatement.

These kinds of children's books are extremely few and far between nowadays. It's not often you find a book filled with vivid imagery and deep ideas in children's anymore. I feel like Harry Potter was the last of this kind.

The author classifies this story as a fable and I'm going to agree. It was pedantic and included a talking animal. But moreover, the ideas in it struck me and I'm a grown ass woman.

Anything that invo
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Rachel
May 25, 2008 Rachel rated it it was ok
I didn't really like this book. I wanted to(really, I did!), but it just seemed to lack . . . well, everything. The basic plot was good, but the way it was put forward was very bland. The characters didn't make much sense either, not thinking or acting like normal people. And for some reason they would be talking all medieval style one minute, and then the next be talking like modern day elementary kids. The ending didn't make much sense either. Really, I had to look twice to make sure it was ...more
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Avi is a pen name for Edward Irving Wortis, but he says, "The fact is, Avi is the only name I use." Born in 1937, Avi has created many fictional favorites such as The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Nothing but the Truth, and the Crispin series. His work is popular among readers young and old.
More about Avi...

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