Emilia Finch and her cousin Luka are gypsies. As such, they live a travelling life rich with gypsy traditions such as story, music, dance (‘tumbling’), and magic.
However, the repressive Cromwell government of 17th century England in which they live regards the gypsies as thieves and fortune-telling mischief makers allied with the devil.
Drinking and dancing, swearing, Christmas and horse racing have all been outlawed.
The Finch family has always managed to avoid trouble. However, one day, the parents decide to perform in a busy marketplace called Kingston Square, in order to raise money for the dowry of their daughter. A series of unfortunate events lands the family in jail, charged with murder. Only Emilia and Luka manage to escape, promising to bring back help and free the others.
Part of the rescue plan involves gathering various charms from various gypsy families. If they can gather all the charms, it is believed that a curse will be lifted. The Rom will no longer be persecuted. The character of Luka balances out this somewhat superstitious belief in charms. Luka believes only in being practical and thus concentrates on getting the help of the other clans to assist in the escape.
Emilia and Luka race through the countryside, navigating a hornets' nest of Rom-hating Puritans, Royalist spies, and traitors. The story gathers pace as the children must rescue their family before the Magistrate is due to pass the death sentence.
I enjoyed the beautiful silhouette illustrations by Jeremy Reston and the sense of fun the two main characters, Emilia with her white horse and Luka with his pet monkey, experience. They balance each other well.
Read on to discover how and if they will be successful or on the other hand, if the hangman’s noose will fall on the Finch family gypsies!
Jane Fagan is a children's librarian with a B.A. (University of Melbourne) and Grad. Dip. Library and Info Studies (Melbourne).