1. Great beginning: “It should have been darker than the darkest night, as black as Indian ink. But it was not.”
2. Lots of (sometimes gory) action, including kidnapping, torture, maiming and murder
3. Wonderful imaginative premise: The world is ruled by five “Mysteries,” each of which has dominion over one of the senses. For instance, the First Mystery controls the sense of touch and controls the production of cloth and tailoring, among other things. If someone wants to develop a new type of cloth, they have to pay the First Mystery for something called a “Pleasure.” The Mysteries, which originally were a way of regulating trade and guaranteeing quality, have become corrupt, only interested in profit, not value. Everyone lives in fear of being imprisoned and sent to the mines for running afoul of one of the Mysteries. The book is all about the Fifth Mystery, which is the most powerful. It controls the use of color.
4. It’s all about the world of art. Mel loves to draw more than anything, and apparently he’s very talented at it. So talented that the most famous artist in the land sends his most trusted minion to get Mel to come be one of his apprentices. Unfortunately, he lands right in the middle of a lot of intrigue and the aforementioned kidnapping, torture and murder.
Here are the things I didn’t like so much about the book:
1. Too many battles in the world-within-the-paintings. At first it was really cool, and the imaginary creatures were fun, but after a while it got tiresome. It seemed that one struggle would just barely be over and a new one would start.
Review by Stacy Church