In this enchanting fantasy, Garth Baxtor is gifted with The Touch. Like his doctor father, he can feel sickness and encourage healing merely by laying his hands on the afflicted person. At 14, he's old enough to accompany his father on the yearly mission to the mines of their industrial kingdom of Escator, where convicted criminals are sentenced to endless labor. Garth is excited by the prospect but is not prepared for what he finds when they arrive—thousands of men enslaved in unspeakable conditions. And when he lays hands on the prisoner known as Lot No. 859, Garth discovers a secret that could solve an ancient mystery and throw all Escator into turmoil and rebellion.

Vivid description and a likeable young hero enhance this tale of political intrigue and a lost prince. By focusing tightly on Garth's perception of the world, Douglass brings Escator to life and creates a believable fantasy universe. (Jul., 348 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum