Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black
Voyages in the Underworld of Orpheus Black
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Annotation: Injured while fighting the German bombing fires of 1944 London, a conscientious objector learns of the death of his soldier brother and embarks on a delirious, poetic quest inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
Catalog Number: #176299
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Illustrator: Deacon, Alexis,
Pages: 312 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-536-20437-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-536-20437-7
Dewey: Fic
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Kirkus Reviews
An injured firefighter records eerie experiences as he searches for his brother during the London Blitz.Following an earnest effort to restore sibling bonds sundered by his decision to register as a conscientious objector, Harry Black leaves his enlisted older brother, Ellis, in a pub that takes a direct hit only minutes later from a V-2. Waking up with head injuries, Harry woozily escapes the hospital to undertake the seemingly hopeless task of digging into the wreckage after his brother—describing his frantic efforts in disjointed notebook entries around prescient visions of future wars fought by machines that he illustrates with nightmarish views of hanging bodies and armies of shrouded figures in hazmat suits. Along with lurid details (notably a pocket full of glass eyes that Harry snatches from a warehouse fire which appear throughout as spot art) the authors, brothers themselves, add a mythic overlay by interspersing extended verse (occasionally rhymed) comments by Orpheus as observer and psychopomp and extending Harry's quest into a dangerous, jumbled underworld that has its own king and pomegranate-eating queen. The attempt to shovel on another layer of significance by trotting in an otherworldly Kindertransport child and positioning her as symbolic of both true peace and a gender complement is ill conceived. Still, unlike his lyre-strumming alter ego, Harry does in the end bring off a rescue…albeit at a cost.Atmospheric and provocative but hampered by a cacophony of messages. (Historical fantasy. 14-17)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* A Blitz-ravaged London meets the underworld of Greek mythology in this remarkable literary mélange from Printz winner Marcus Sedgwick and his brother, Julian. When a German bomb levels the pub where 19-year-old Harry and his brother, Ellis, have just reconciled, Harry survives with a blow to the head, but Ellis is lost in the wreckage. Against doctor's orders, Harry returns to the bomb site in search of his brother, thus beginning his descent into a twentieth-century hellscape of rubble, bunkers, and tunnels. As Harry's grasp of reality dissolves into hallucination, and the London Underground blurs into the mythic underworld, the novel shifts between Harry's epistolary accounts and the free-verse narration of the poet Orpheus, further intercut by Deacon's black-and-white paintings of a dystopian cyberpunk nightmare. Astonishingly, it works. The reader is so transported into Harry's fever dream that the muddling delusions become a shared experience. It's a confusion that enhances rather than detracts, thanks to the elucidating Orpheus, whose accessible poetry keeps the truth in plain view. Despite its complex crafting, the story never feels overwrought. It flows, grounded in character and the theme of preserving humanity from the machines of war. Even as Harry emerges from the abyss, a satisfying conclusion leads the reader from the darkness, delivering an emotional gut punch that will provoke as much feeling as thought.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (6/1/19)
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal
Reading Level: 5.0
Interest Level: 7-12
Lexile: 760L

Harry Black is lost between the world of war and the land of myth in this illustrated novel that transports the tale of Orpheus to World War II–era London.

Brothers Marcus and Julian Sedgwick team up to pen this haunting tale of another pair of brothers, caught between life and death in World War II. Harry Black, a conscientious objector, artist, and firefighter battling the blazes of German bombing in London in 1944, wakes in the hospital to news that his soldier brother, Ellis, has been killed. In the delirium of his wounded state, Harry’s mind begins to blur the distinctions between the reality of war-torn London, the fiction of his unpublished sci-fi novel, and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Driven by visions of Ellis still alive and a sense of poetic inevitability, Harry sets off on a search for his brother that will lead him deep into the city’s Underworld. With otherworldly paintings by Alexis Deacon depicting Harry’s surreal descent further into the depths of hell, this eerily beautiful blend of prose, verse, and illustration delves into love, loyalty, and the unbreakable bonds of brotherhood as it builds to a fierce indictment of mechanized warfare.

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