Sixteen-year-old Sarah Trevelyan comes from a proud, once well off family whose ruin was brought about by a bet between her grandfather and an enigmatic gentleman known as Azrael. The simple turn of a card left Sarah’s father and his new bride without a home or a penny to their name. Now Sarah works as menial labor for a spiteful teacher at the local school for a pittance, barely enough to keep her and her sick father alive. Sarah’s situation changes dramatically with the reappearance of Azrael in her ancestral home. Azrael hires Sarah to get his extensive library in order and assist him in the laboratory but what he is really after is her soul. Sarah is understandably suspicious, especially when warned by a tramp to beware of Azrael but as her father grows sicker, she has no option but to sign an agreement. The terms are quite clear, Sarah and her father are restored to their home with all the funds they require at their disposal and Sarah has one hundred years to enjoy life and attempt restitution for the arrogant ways of her ancestors. When the hundred years are over, Azrael will return and take Sarah’s soul but she does not intend to hand it over without a fight. Assistance comes from a couple of boys who have their own troubled history.
Written for the tween and teen set, this unusual fantasy expands upon old fairy tales to explore what happens when a young woman makes a deal with the devil and the value of lessons learned. The characters are well developed, the storyline inventive and the setting, spread out as it is between present day and the British Isles a hundred years ago, makes an interesting contrast as Sarah seeks to redress old wrongs. Once again, Fisher, author of Incarceron, demonstrates her unique talent for twisting old tales into something utterly appealing and new.