Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Book of the Night: The Black Musketeers

Book of the Night: The Black Musketeers

Oliver Potzsch
For ages 13 and up
AmazonCrossing, 2016   ISBN: 978-1503938427

For as long as Lukas Lohenfels can remember, war has been a part of life in the German Empire. It all began in Bohemia, when Protestants threw the Catholic Kaiser’s representative out of a castle window. Since then battles have torn lives apart, leaving nothing but destruction and suffering in their path. Lukas’ own father once served the Kaiser as an officer in the Black Musketeers, and he knows full well how terrible war is.

Luckily for Lukas these conflicts have never touched the peaceful world that he lives in. He therefore relishes the sword-fighting lessons that his father gives him. Lukas asks his father to take him to battle, but he is firmly told that “War is no children’s game.” Lukas should be happy that war has not upset his life thus far.

The very next day after this conversation, the day after Lukas’ thirteenth birthday, trouble comes to his safe and secure home in Lohenfels Castle. Lukas wakes up to find out that enemy soldiers have come to his family home. Lukas’ father tells Lukas to take his little sister Elsa to the dungeon, and to hide and stay there until he hears from his father.

Reluctantly Lukas does as he is told, but he cannot resist coming out of the dungeon to see what is going on. He finds out that the soldiers have come to arrest his mother, whom they accuse of being a witch. They plan on taking her to Heidelberg so that she can be questioned. Lukas is horrified. He knows all too well what happens to people accused of witchcraft. They are tortured and then burned at the stake.

Lukas’ father refuses to hand over his wife, and his killed for his courage. Then a monk who is traveling with the soldiers (who are Spanish mercenaries) tells the soldiers to find the children. They should kill Lukas and capture Elsa.

Though he wants to stay with his sister and protect her, Lukas knows that there is nothing he can do, and so he runs away and escapes, hoping all the while that one day he will be able to find Elsa and rescue her from her captors.

Grieving for his father, and fearing for his sister and mother, Lukas walks to Heidelberg. He is now just another “nameless refugee without a home or a future,” but he has a purpose and that keeps him going. Before she was taken away, Lukas’ mother mentioned the name of the monk who came to get her: the grand inquisitor Waldemar von Schonborn. The monk accused Lukas’ mother of witchcraft before, and now he has won. Unless Lukas can save his mother before the inquisitor can have her executed.

In Heidelberg Lukas learns that his mother is to be burned the next day, and sure enough the following morning she is brought into the market square. As his mother is conveyed to her place of execution, people who have come to the city to watch her die talk about her. Most condemn her, but one old man talks about how she must be a good witch. After all, she healed his grandson who was sick. Lukas is startled by this idea and wants to know more about white witches, but then the cart containing his mother arrives. Lukas calls to her and somehow, over the din of the crowd she hears him. She tells him that he must not try to save her. He must run away, and no matter what happens she will always be with him.

Lukas’ mother is dragged away, and yet even when she is no longer near him he can hear her voice. When the fire starts to burn a most amazing thing happens, a cloud of blue smoke rises from the pyre, and it would seem that Lukas is the only person who sees it. He hears his mother’s voice again and feels a strange touch on his cheek.

Filled with feelings of rage and loss, Lukas swears to himself that he will find his sister. What follows is an adventure that brings him into contact with thieves, killers, performers, soldiers, and even some of the famous Black Musketeers.  He will experience so much, including being in the middle of a battle; and he will learn that his enemy is so much more than he seems.

This unique novel combines facts from the past with magical elements, to give readers a remarkable tale that is exciting, unpredictable, and thoroughly satisfying.