As the daughter of a prominent judge of Khazaria, twelve-year-old Ziva is expected to focus on learning etiquette and decorum in hopes of finding a good husband. But she doesn’t care about any of that. Instead, she spends her days with her twin brother, Pesah, as they work to try to find a cure for his leprosy.
Now Pesah’s getting worse. The best doctors have given him mere weeks to live. Even more alarming, Pesah has a vision: the Angel of Death is coming to collect him on Rosh Hashanah, only one month away. In a panic, Ziva runs away with Pesah to the Byzantine Empire, home to hundreds of doctors. Surely one of them must have a cure.
But when Ziva accidentally frees a half-demon boy named Almas on their journey, unintentionally binding him to her until his debt is paid, Almas tells her about the legendary city of Luz, where the Angel of Death is forbidden to tread. If the three of them can get there by Rosh Hashanah, they can cure Pesah for good. They just need to run faster than the Angel of Death can fly . . .
From what I can tell, this story takes place twelve hundred years ago and is set in the surrounding area of the Caspian Sea. I think the ‘Afterword’ section at the end of the book explains where it all takes place, but I have no idea. A visual map would have been more helpful.
I’ve tried reading books featuring other cultures’ folklore before, and I couldn’t understand a word of what was going on. Even though I couldn’t wrap my mind around all the Jewish terminologies and history, I understood enough to enjoy the story. The glossary was helpful, but it all still confused me a bit.
The main thing that intrigued me was the subject of leprosy. According to the book’s glossary, it is one of the earliest recorded human diseases. It is now called Hansen’s disease and can be cured with antibiotics. A thousand years ago, nobody knew much about it, so it was amusing to read about Ziva and Persah trying their best to find a cure.
I loved Ziva from the start. She is bold and stubborn and absolutely devoted to her twin brother. I admired how determined she was to save Pesah, even willing to face The Angel of Death himself.
The story’s beginning was engaging and drew me in, but the middle was a bit dry. I almost stopped reading. I’m glad I didn’t. The ending was heart-wrenching and amazing and almost made me cry. I highly recommend giving this book a try.