cover image HUNCHBACK


Randall Wright, . . Holt, $16.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7232-7

Hodge, the titular 13-year-old hero of Wright's (A Hundred Days from Home ) often intriguing medieval coming-of-age tale, spends his days doing the most disgusting work around Castle Marlby, cleaning the muck and welcomed only by his brother, always yearning to serve a prince or king. He comes close to reaching his dream when Prince Leo inexplicably arrives for a stay at the castle. Is he an honored guest, accompanied by a retinue, or is he being held captive by his guards? Holed up in his room, the prince is served by Hodge, who, unaware that his presence may be intended as a slight to Leo, feels honored every time Leo speaks to him and even believes Leo to be his friend. Then an army marches in, threatening to lay waste to the castle if Leo is not handed over to them—but the prince has just escaped. Leaving behind his beloved brother, Hodge flees to aid Leo, only to find himself embroiled in rapidly escalating warfare and royal treachery. All the while drawing an atmospheric period backdrop, Wright keeps the tension high as Hodge weighs his divided loyalties to his brother and "his" prince, and slowly learns that, stooped back or not, he must stand tall in his ability to trust himself. Some of the resolutions are tidy, but Hodge's struggles take on the compelling heat of personal battles. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)