Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Fourteen-year-old Durriken Brishen has lost his parents, his grandfather, and though he doesn't know it, his Gypsy culture's dangerous gift.
Taken in and raised on the rails by the first woman to pilot a freight train, Durriken has one remaining connection to his Romani roots: a small wooden box that hangs from the hammer loop of his overalls. The last gift he received from his grandfather, the box contains the world's first chess set. But a piece is missing: the Red Queen. According to Durriken’s family lore, the complete set awakens the power of Tărie, a mercurial gift that confers unique abilities on each new Master.
When a suspicious fire erupts in the Chicago rail yard, Durriken's escape produces an uneasy alliance, though not without its silver lining. Dilia is a few inches taller, several degrees cleverer, and oh yes – very pretty. While Durriken is uneasy allying with a girl whose parents were convicted of sedition, there's no doubt she is a powerful partner. And while it's not immediately clear to either, her own Guatemalan culture and family history are deeply entwined with the ancient Romani mystery.
Jumping box cars, escaping riverboats, deciphering clues, crossing swords with the brilliant madman Radu Pinch – with great American cities as its backdrop – Gypsy Knights is the page-turning saga of Durriken Brishen and his quest to rediscover his past.
And here's what I thought: While I found this book to be a bit of a slow starter, it quickly picked up pace as the story progressed, and it turned out to be an enjoyable read. Vividly written, and filled with the intrigue of a good chess game, it's at once complicated and clear. Just when you think you know what's going on, there's an extra dash of intrigue. For example, Dilia wears a Red Queen on a chain around her neck -- is just a good luck charm or something more? I like that I was kept guessing about details like this.
I also found the writing to be really appealing -- the authors write descriptively, without it being overwrought. Example: "Clean shaven, with indomitable brown eyes beneath a heavy brow, Ernesto sauntered across the cafe wearing a rumpled suit and loosened tie. Despite his carefree manner, the air seemed to crackle around him like heat lightning." (p. 11). I can clearly see this person in my mind, but I don't feel like the authors are going on and on and on about it. It's also cool how details of chess are worked in to the story, as well as historical details. There's an extra twist to this book in that while it's set in the 1960s, the story occasionally jumps back a bit in time to reveal bits of back-story.
If you're up for a bit of adventure, with some history and mystery thrown in, this is just what you're looking for.
First sentences: Durriken Brishen quickened his pace instinctively, turning the dim corner just as the library door sprung open and a dark Gypsy with a wild beard staggered out, holding an unconscious woman in a red dress.
Thoughts on the cover: Very well suited to the story, it gives a clear idea of what the book is about.
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