From Dancing Cat Books: What is the most dangerous secret of all? For fifteen-year-old Dany, is it the shame that his once-vital mother now suffers mutely from “the staring sickness?” Or is it that Count Pol, the corrupt absolute ruler of Western Gottika, may be scouting the city clandestinely for teenage girls to kidnap? Could the worst secret be the mystery behind why all the kids in the Estat are only-children? Or could it be that Dany’s father possesses the secret knowledge of how to bring clay to life, and transform it into a terrifying weapon—an all-powerful Gol?
When Dany’s father is framed for the brutal murder of Gottika’s Princess Avivia, Dany is forced to confront all of these secrets. But that won’t be enough. In order to save his father, he’ll have to go still deeper. He’ll have to uncover his own family’s secret, one even darker and more disturbing than the rest.
In Helaine Becker’s young adult novel Gottika (Dancing Cat Books), the city is divided into the privileged Gottikans and marginalized Stoons. Dany is a Stoon, ashamed of his status, of his mother’s silence and of his father’s lack of action when it comes to protecting their people. Gottikan children are being murdered and the blame is landing on the Stoons—the blood-thirsty Count Pol is making sure of it.
Becker’s writing is quite beautiful. Powerful, dark and often disturbing, though laced with hope. Just like Dany’s story.
Gottika is a unique blend of Old World and the future, with castles and ancient customs side-by-side with modern phrases and robotic horses. I was intrigued by this blend, though I admit I found myself a bit jarred by the futuristic details when so much of the story felt like it was from a time long past.
There is a lot going on in this story and even more beneath its surface. I think it would be great in a classroom as it raises questions about civil rights, ethnic brutality, religious difference, prejudice, etc. in a way that is accessible to readers. It would easily facilitate discussion questions. That the story is interspersed with graphic-novel style panels will especially appeal to more reluctant readers.
In Gottika, Becker has created a new legend. One about courage, family and truth.
♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5 hearts)
This book was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Don’t miss my interview with Helaine Becker here.