Below the shining city of Asteri, in a forest called The Barrow, Oscar prepares herbs and plants in a small room beneath the shop of his master. The shining city of Asteri is protected by magic, magic that is fed by the Barrow's rich soil. The Barrow's rich soil feeds the plants and herbs that Oscar's master, Caleb, sells. Caleb is a magician, a magician more powerful than any in a generation. Oscar is not his apprentice, but a mere hand whose job it is to collect, dry, extract and grind the tools of his master's trade.
Caleb and the magic smiths of the Barrow serve the people of Asteri. Life in Asteri and the Barrow have been like this for a hundred years. Then the children of Asteri begin to fall ill. The children of a city that should see no harm, that should be protected by magic. Then, some form of evil in the forest begins to attack the people of the barrow. These events might be connected to a plague that nearly destroyed everything and everyone and left lasting reminders and consequences. Oscar is thrust into action.
And that's all I'll tell you.
Wait, I'll tell you this, I love this book.
I love Oscar. Oscar might not think he understands and relates to people, but he sees what they don't and he understands what they don't. Oscar has a secret weapon: his knowledge. Oscar is a reader.
I love the cats whose unique names and personalities make them characters in their own right. The reader knows that Oscar is not alone (and is also protected) if the cats are about.
I love Callie, the brave and strong apprentice, whose broken heart tries to heal others.
I love that the novel explores societal ideals around justice and equality as well as perfection and acceptance.
I love how Anne Ursu challenges the reader to consider, "What would you do to secure a perfect world?" and, "What would you do to ensure your child's health and happiness?"
Like the herbs and plants young Oscar collects, prepares and combines to create herbal remedies for his master's clients, Anne Ursu collects, prepares and combines magic, wizards, and a plague, along with suspense, mystery and some hero's quest to create one powerful concoction. Read the The Real Boy.