January 2014

The sweet magic of Venetian music

By Nicholas Christopher
Review by
Share this Article:

The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen is the survival story of an orphaned boy who learns to rise above tragedy, poverty and urban evils using only his cleverness, his sense of justice and the mysterious powers of his magical clarinet.

In the year 1714, Nicolo’s village is stricken by a vicious outbreak of malaria, and the plague quickly claims his entire family. Alone at 14, Nicolo deserts his disease-ridden home for Venice, taking with him only one item—his enchanted, ivory clarinet. He hopes for nothing more than survival as a beggar, but he quickly learns that he can collect far more coins by playing his clarinet and relying on his cunning. Nicolo is soon dressing up in girls’ clothes, mimicking his deceased sisters’ mannerisms and trying to convince the maestro of the local girls’ orphanage orchestra—Master Antonio Vivaldi, Venice’s greatest musician—of both his musical talent and his feigned gender. He gradually learns to better wield his charmed instrument, which transforms him into a musical prodigy and the subject of much attention, praise and jealousy.

Fate takes Nicolo to the doorstep of Massimo Magnifico, a magician who can explain the supernatural ability of his clarinet. And once they talk, Nicolo’s life is never the same.

Author Nicholas Christopher’s debut YA novel envelopes the reader in a world where anything—be it tragic, beatific or mystic—can happen to anyone.

Trending Reviews

Get the Book

The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen

The True Adventures of Nicolo Zen

By Nicholas Christopher
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9780375867385

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.