The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu
HarperCollins, 2013. 341 pgs. Fantasy
Oscar was taken from the orphanage many years ago to be a hand in magician's shop in the Barrow. He lives in the basement with a clowder of cats where he grinds herbs and mixes powders. In the daylight hours he hunts the forest for herbs and berries, and tends to the magician's gardens. Oscar doesn't much know how to get along in the real world and makes a hash of things when Master Caleb leaves him in charge of the shop while he goes to the Mainland on business. But soon Oscar has to take charge of many more things than the shop when his Master is gone, and children in the rich and perfect city of Asteri, which the Barrow serves begin to fall ill with a variety of disorders even magic can't cure. Has the plague returned? With his new friend Callie he races to find a cure for whatever ails the children while trying to avoid and then destroy a terrifying monster who has arisen from the damaged land and is laying waste to everything that has kept Oscar safe. The Real Boy is an exciting, puzzling, magical story, but Ursu's children, Calllie and Oscar, are the best part.