“The Beast is awakening! Fear the dragon, for the day of the eclipse is approaching!”
Salerno, 1066. A frenzied preacher roams the streets warning of the end of the world. Barliario takes no notice and continues on his way. Only when his father’s alchemy laboratory catches fire and his life becomes instrumental to a mysterious figure seeking to use him to seize the dragon fire does Barliario believe the strange preacher’s words. And so, gathering his most trusted friends, he sets off in search of the dragon fire.
Thanks to the author’s flowing and concise prose, the very short and pacy chapters, and Paolo Barbieri’s illustrations, we are catapulted into an utterly gripping story. After a few lines we find ourselves exploring the streets of Salerno in 1066, together with the five protagonists. Manlio Castagna’s return to historical fantasy takes the reader on an adventure which has at its core the richness of diversity, the overcoming of fear and the power of friendship. Right from the start the author introduces us to a hugely varied group of children, each with different motives and skills, who set out on the search for a legend. And, as in the most classic medieval dualism, Barliario – a child desperate to please his father and make him proud by learning the art of alchemy – interacts with and travels alongside Trotula, a girl of scientific inclination and one of the most skilled healers. But it isn’t only magic and science that come together here: the other children, Shabbati, Mercuriade and Ligea, also bring a whole range of nuances to the adventures and quest the group must embark on. As per the classic coming-of-age novel, each character undergoes their own journey and path to growth. They go through experiences, create bonds and – as in the title of one of the chapters – become adults without realising it.
di Manlio Castagna