The May 3 on-sale date of Daniel José Older’s Ballad & Dagger is upon us! Time to get ready with a rundown on Mateo and Chela.
Welcome to Little Madrigal, home of pirates, ghosts, Santeros, Jews, and the most incredible music you’ve ever heard. The residents of this corner of Brooklyn used to call the Caribbean island of San Madrigal home. For centuries it was a peaceful and thriving refuge for the dispossessed, free from colonial rule and imperial influence. Nunca conquistado, nunca vencido. Never conquered, never defeated.
But that was before San Madrigal tragically sunk into the sea during a freak hurricane.
Mateo and Chela are too young to remember that. For their sixteen years, all they’ve known is the vibrant urban community teeming with magic rooted in the cultures of Sephardic Judaism and Cuban Santería.
What Mateo and Chela don’t know is that their lives are about to change forever. And whether they like it or not, their destinies are tied to the resurrection of San Madrigal.
The Boy in the Background
Mateo Matisse would rather slip into the shadows than make himself known to the public. Sure, he might be a piano prodigy, but he’s way more comfortable letting others take center stage. Even in a society in close touch with its muertos, Matteo wishes he could fade away like a ghost.
And he would know better than most, considering the fact that he lives with an actual ghost, his aunt Miriam, partner of his very-much-still-alive Tía Lucia. Mateo’s aunts have been keeping certain secrets from him. Life-changing secrets that will come to light during the Grande Fete, the biggest night of the year in Little Madrigal.
That’s when Mateo’s true heritage and purpose will finally be revealed. Along with a side of healing powers. Get ready to be thrust into the spotlight, m’ijo.
The Girl with the Dagger
Unlike Mateo, Chela has no problem drawing attention to herself. Like when she’s driving her knife into someone’s throat.
Most people know Chela as the quiet and unassuming daughter of Rabbi Hidalgo, one of Madrigal’s community leaders. So why is she going around murdering folks during the Grande Fete?
Rumor has it that something changed within Chela when she went through a ritual that connected her to a violent ancient spirit. Hey, no one gets to choose their ancestors. . . .
But with street fights breaking out across the neighborhood and corrupt people trying to prevent the rise of San Madrigal, violence may be unavoidable. If you thought people went wild during Little Madrigal’s famous block parties, just wait ’til you see what happens when things get truly out of hand.
Ready to explore more of Little Madrigal with Mateo and Chela? Be sure to pick up Ballad & Dagger, on sale May 3rd!