The tears of the salamander. (Hardcover Fiction).DICKINSON, Peter. The tears of the salamander salamander, an amphibian of the order Urodela, or Caudata. Salamanders have tails and small, weak limbs; superficially they resemble the unrelated lizards (which are reptiles), but they are easily distinguished by their lack of scales and claws, and by their moist, . Random House. 197p. c2003. 0-385-73098-5. $16.95.
A remarkable fantasy. exquisite. and a challenge to readers of any age. After being caught up in the imagery--so much of it--I realized I know little about the place of salamanders in history and mythology. My husband knew: yes, Aristotle wrote of salamanders and their ability to withstand the greatest fire. And Dickinson with his great skill as a writer for young people has used this image to create a remarkable story that takes place on the edge of the great volcano Mt. Etna on Sicily.
The story is part metaphysics metaphysics (mĕtəfĭz`ĭks), branch of philosophy concerned with the ultimate nature of existence. It perpetuates the Metaphysics of Aristotle, a collection of treatises placed after the Physics [Gr. , part adventure, and in that way it is similar to Phillip Pullman's trilogy His Dark Materials His Dark Materials is a trilogy of novels by the fantasy fiction author Philip Pullman, comprising Northern Lights (released as The Golden Compass in North America and published in 1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass . Young Alfredo is the main character, a lover of choir music that he sings so well. His family perishes in a conflagration and soon an uncle comes to take him away to live with him in Sicily. The boat that transports them there mysteriously explodes in flame as it sails away from the island. Later, Alfredo learns that his uncle created these destructive fires that guaranteed Alfredo would be isolated with his uncle, to be used for his dark purposes. Alfredo is tutored by his uncle. singing sad psalms Psalms (sämz) or Psalter (sôl`tər), book of the Bible, a collection of 150 hymnic pieces. Since the last centuries B.C., this book has been the chief hymnal of Jews, and subsequently, of Christians. and Persian chants, which call up a salamander from the furnace in the uncle's chamber; and the salamander weeps into a vial vial
a small bottle. , giving the uncle a potion po·tion
A liquid medicinal dose or drink.
a large dose of liquid medicine. that keeps him strong and alive. The uncle is preparing for a ritual and Alfredo slowly understands the horror of it and plots to prevent his uncle from accomplishing his devilish dev·il·ish
1. Of, resembling, or characteristic of a devil, as:
a. Malicious; evil.
b. Mischievous, teasing, or annoying.
2. Excessive; extreme: devilish heat. plan. He realizes that the other young man in the household, a so-called idiot, is capable of creating great music with the recorder, music that brings forth the angels of fire, and the two join forces to free the salamander from the uncle's furnace and place him in the crater of the volcano where he can join the others. The uncle is destroyed, and his son-the so-called idiot, Alfredo's cousin-will use his inherited mastery over the mountain to protect those who dwell there.
This brief outline of the plot does little to describe the beauty of the language and the wonder of the details in this complex story. This is not going to be a popular YA book, because of its challenges, but for those readers who are fascinated by metaphysics, by music, by intricate fantasy, this is a special treat.