By Paul Dowswell Published
by Paul Dowswell
ISBN 978 1 4088 0046 1
For his latest historical adventure, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Paul Dowswell takes us back to Ancient Bohemia in 1598. When Lukas Declercq's father is killed by religious fanatics, his uncle summons the boy to join him in Prague where he will be safe and where he can work as an apprentice. Uncle Anselmus is a court physician to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph, and he has arranged for his nephew to assist him in his work. This is the chance of a lifetime for a teenager; Lukas has high hopes.
Prague is a city like no other. It is a refuge for alchemists, scientists and philosophers who have been driven out of other cities. The city is also a melting-pot of nationalities and religions, with Jews, Muslims, Protestants and Catholics all living peacefully and profitably side by side. In stark contrast to much of Catholic Europe, where the infamous Inquisition spreads terror for anyone who thinks outside the Catholic Church, Prague is a city of opportunity and scientific debate.
In the centre of the city is the Emperor's palace, a city in itself with winding streets, elegant buildings and dark corners. Rudolph considers himself a forward-thinking ruler and is fascinated by science and knowledge. He has built up a Cabinet of Curiosities, a series of rooms in the palace that hold priceless and curious objects from around the world.
These dark rooms are stuffed to the rafters with wonderful objects and scientific marvels such as a nail from Noah's Ark, phoenix feathers and terrible freaks of nature. The reclusive and unstable Rudolph spends hours in the rooms escaping the demands of his office.
As well as being court doctor, Anselmus is also the curator of the Cabinet of Curiosities. After being taken there, Lukas becomes fascinated. Outside the palace, however, there are people who are planning to use the Cabinet to bring about the Emperor's downfall.
Dorantes, a diplomat from the Catholic court of Spain, has come to the city with his beautiful daughter Celestina to force Emperor Rudolph to give up his anti-religious beliefs in science and alchemy. The wily Spaniard has devised a plan that will get him into Rudolph's inner circle. Lukas discovers the truth behind Dorantes' intentions and he has to move quickly to thwart the conspiracy.
The Cabinet of Curiosities is a gripping, thrilling adventure set against a fascinating historical backdrop. Dowswell is a key writer of historical fiction for teens and young adults - open the Cabinet and set off on an amazing, exhilarating literary adventure.
John Millen can be contacted on MillenBookshelf@aol.com