Amber and Clay (Hardcover)
The art of the epic has become reimagined in Laura Amy Schlitz’s Amber and Clay. The
novel is a symphony of verse, paragraphs of narrative scattered throughout, and artwork meant to
reflect examples of real relics from the time in which the story is set. Rather than using one
specific voice, Schlitz follows several who revolve around the lives of two young members of
Greek society, Rhaskos the Thracian ‘barbarian’ slave and Melisto the daughter of a wealthy
man. Dipping into the realm of magical realism, one voice belongs to the god Hermes who acts
as an omniscient narrator and is aware that the events in the novel happened long ago from the
Amber and Clay gives us a window into the world of Greek myth, with just enough
reality to allow the reader to become completely submersed in the lives of Rhaskos and Melisto.
Sokrates makes an appearance, illuminating the moral dilemmas that the protagonists face. It is a
story of freedom, discovering one’s passions – as Rhaskos discovers his love for painting – and a
reminder that no matter what time-period one lives in, our struggles are the same.
For example, Melisto is headstrong and wishes to be independent despite her status as a
woman in a society where she is expected to bend to the beck and call of men and to be enslaved
to a husband. Even as a child, she knows this is wrong. Similarly, Rhaskos has been a slave all
his life but he yearns for the privileges of free men. As he grows older, he knows that these
wishes are normal, and that slavery is not. This young adult novel teaches important philosophies
of what it means to be human and the rights one deserves.
Groundbreaking in its story-telling technique with its gorgeous blend of illustrations,
verse, and rich narrative, Amber and Clay is sure to enthrall. Readers will be swept away in a
world of gods, ghosts, and monsters on Schlitz’s enchanting verses until the bittersweet end.
The Newbery Medal–winning author of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! gives readers a virtuoso performance in verse in this profoundly original epic pitched just right for fans of poetry, history, mythology, and fantasy.
Welcome to ancient Greece as only genius storyteller Laura Amy Schlitz can conjure it. In a warlike land of wind and sunlight, “ringed by a restless sea,” live Rhaskos and Melisto, spiritual twins with little in common beyond the violent and mysterious forces that dictate their lives. A Thracian slave in a Greek household, Rhaskos is as common as clay, a stable boy worth less than a donkey, much less a horse. Wrenched from his mother at a tender age, he nurtures in secret, aided by Socrates, his passions for art and philosophy. Melisto is a spoiled aristocrat, a girl as precious as amber but willful and wild. She’ll marry and be tamed—the curse of all highborn girls—but risk her life for a season first to serve Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
Bound by destiny, Melisto and Rhaskos—Amber and Clay—never meet in the flesh. By the time they do, one of them is a ghost. But the thin line between life and death is just one boundary their unlikely friendship crosses. It takes an army of snarky gods and fearsome goddesses, slaves and masters, mothers and philosophers to help shape their story into a gorgeously distilled, symphonic tour de force.
Blending verse, prose, and illustrated archaeological “artifacts,” this is a tale that vividly transcends time, an indelible reminder of the power of language to illuminate the over- and underworlds of human history.
About the Author
Laura Amy Schlitz is the author of the Newbery Medal–winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village; the Newbery Honor Book and New York Times bestseller Splendors & Glooms; The Hired Girl, recipient of the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award; and several other books for young readers. A teacher as well as a writer, Laura Amy Schlitz lives in Maryland.
Julia Iredale is an artist who works as a freelance illustrator for clients around the world. Her work is informed by her love of mythology, dark fantasy, and human psychology, weaving these together to create beautiful, mysterious characters and worlds. She lives in Victoria, British Columbia.
“Reading Amber and Clay is like passing through a river into a country that you thought you knew, only to learn that it is both familiar and deeply strange, beautiful and very unsettling. You will find a thrilling archaeological mystery, uncovered piece by broken piece. And you will find two difficult children, struggling to find their place in the world, who grow in the most unpredictable ways. Amber and Clay is a masterpiece. Pass through the river, but know this: you can never pass back through the same river. Because even if the river were somehow the same, you won’t be.” —Adam Gidwitz, author of The Inquisitor’s Tale, a Newbery Honor Book
“Amber and Clay works the best kind of book magic, bringing to life gods and ghosts and philosophers. It is a rare treat.” —Megan Whalen Turner, author of The Thief, a Newbery Honor Book
“Volcanic in power, virtuosic in form, peerless in nuanced execution, Amber and Clay is compulsively readable. I was in thrall to its lyric and threnody at breakfast and at lunch and going up the stairs. The muse chose right in inspiring Laura Amy Schlitz to give us this haunting tale of duty, liberty, art, and friendship.” —Gregory Maguire, New York Times best-selling author of Wicked
“Laura Amy Schlitz has done it again—this time immersing readers in the ancient and mythological Greek world. Richly textured, Amber and Clay intersperses poetry, prose, and artifacts to powerful effect. This is a narrative worthy of the gods!” —Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Becoming Billie Holiday, a Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor Book
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes Laura Amy Schlitz, like a lightning bolt from Mount Olympus, to deliver a book that is a nearly perfect nesting doll of brilliantly imagined narratives. With the help of none other than Sokrates himself, Amber and Clay transports the reader to fifth century bce Athens to confront complex questions about how we mortals manufacture shadowy Truths from our incomplete knowledge and flawed perceptions. But the simple spark holding this epic historical adventure together is the unconquerable certainty and resilience of love. It is a love ‘as precious as amber and as common as clay.’ I am in love with this lyrical novel, its snarky Greek gods, haunting ghosts, archaeological artifacts, and vivid world-building. I swear to the gods, when I was finally able to put this book down, it continued to hum and crackle with electricity.” —Allan Wolf, author of The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep
“An original, intriguing, and beautifully worked-out story that brings the ancient past most vividly to life. Top marks for great illustrations, too.” —Adèle Geras, author of Troy, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor winner
“Schlitz is such a bold and intelligent writer. It’s a beautifully written tale.” —David Almond, Hans Christian Andersen Award–winning author of The Tightrope Walkers