cover image Curse of a Winter Moon

Curse of a Winter Moon

Mary Casanova. Hyperion Books for Children, $15.99 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0547-1

The persecutions and superstitions of 16th-century France form the backdrop to this flawed novel. Marius, the 12-year-old narrator, watches over his younger brother, Jean-Pierre, after their mother dies in childbirth. Jean-Pierre's birth on Christmas Eve has cursed him as a loup garou, or werewolf. Casanova (Stealing Thunder) evokes Marius's ominous sense of danger, the ever-growing distrust of the ignorant townspeople and some interesting historical contrasts (i.e., reading the Bible on one's own was considered heretical). Despite the high-stakes plot, however, the spare development of even main characters diminishes the emotional impact. Particularly implausible is the evolution of Marius's father, a smithy whose supposed charms caused a noblewoman to give up her position to marry him; he silently coexists beside his sons for six years after their mother's death until the rapidly building animosity of the townspeople causes him to reveal his secrets and confidences. While the setting and conflict certainly highlight the corruption of the clergy and the growing influence of the Reformation, the novel's flat characters make this story curiously unenlightening. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)