cover image Black Bird, Blue Road

Black Bird, Blue Road

Sofiya Pasternack. Versify, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-358-57203-9

In this dazzling historical fantasy, Pasternack (the Anya and the Dragon duology) tells of a tender sibling bond set in the little-known medieval Jewish empire of Khazaria. In the city of Atil, newly 12-year-old Ziva bat Leah is desperate to keep her brilliant, beloved twin brother, Pesah, from dying of leprosy. Inventive Pesah is kept in a house of his own on the Jewish family’s property, but when the siblings’ doctor uncle recommends that Pesah be sent to a far-flung colony, Ziva packs the siblings up and hits the road, hoping to find a cure. They soon meet up with a half-sheydim boy with whom they travel, but they’re racing against time, and the long journey is shadowed quite literally by Malach hamavet—the Angel of Death himself. Pasternack shows how Ziva’s love of justice drives her, while depicting a world in which spirits are manifest, healers come in many forms, and a bold girl can literally bargain with the Angel of Death. Tenderly rendering Ziva’s feelings of responsibility—including around Pesah’s physical care and amputating his infected fingers and toes—Pasternack imagines a rich, omen-filled journey that powerfully shows love and its limits. A contextualizing afterword and glossary conclude. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rena Rossner, Deborah Harris Agency. (Sept.)