We’re celebrating the on-sale date of Ballad & Dagger by sharing Rick’s gushing introduction to the novel. If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, we’ll let Rick convince you. Happy reading!
DO YOU REMEMBER SAN MADRIGAL?
Oh, that beautiful island swallowed by the sea . . . the Atlantis of the Caribbean! The irresistible music of the kameros electrified the tropical evenings. The Grand Fetes swirled with color and joyful chaos: dancing, singing, and drumming; gifts and prayers for the spirits. Platters overflowed with luscious seafood.
Nowhere else in the world had that particularly wonderful mix of humanity—the three “founding” groups of Sefaradim, Santeros, and pirates, and also Indigenous peoples, dispossessed European Jews, and freed West Africans. San Madrigal was a haven from persecution, slavery, and colonial rule. It wasn’t perfect, no, but it was fiercely, proudly independent. A tiny jewel of a country!
And then, fifteen years ago, it disappeared beneath the waves, leaving behind only the diaspora community of Little Madrigal in Brooklyn, New York. I still ache with sorrow when I think about such a loss to the world.
Wait, you say.
You check a map. You Google “San Madrigal.”
Uh, Rick? San Madrigal isn’t real. It never existed.
Balderdash! I say. (Because I am the kind of person who says “Balderdash.”)
Just because a place is fictional doesn’t mean it isn’t real. San Madrigal is as real as Wakanda or the Shire or Earthsea. Once you read Ballad & Dagger, you will see what I mean. Only the best authors can make me feel nostalgic for a place that never existed but needs to exist, and Daniel José Older is one of the best.
In Ballad & Dagger he gives us not only amazing characters, not only a compelling story, not only beautiful prose, humor, and heart—all of which come standard with every Older novel. He also gives us an entire culture—the heritage of a lost island we didn’t know we needed until it had sunk beneath the sea. That, my friends, is powerful writing.
Like all San Madrigaleros, our hero Mateo Matisse is many things. He’s a musician, a healer, a young man in search of his place in the world. He’s also going to be your new best friend as he guides you through the wonderful world of Little Madrigal: a community infused with magic, where spirits live side by side with the living, and where the fractious, pirate-inspired democracy of San Madrigal fights to maintain its culture without its island.
But what if San Madrigal could be raised again? What kind of magic would that require? What kind of sacrifices? These are the questions Matteo Matisse will have to wrestle with in Ballad & Dagger, and he’s going to need his healing skills, because the fight for the soul of San Madrigal is going to open up some very old wounds.
For many years, I have aspired to work with Daniel José Older. I have read all his books. I have been in awe of his breathtaking range. I have longed to find the largest soapbox available, stand upon it, and shout into my megaphone: HEY, EVERYBODY, YOU NEED TO READ THIS GUY!
I am delighted that I finally get to do this. And while any Daniel José Older novel is worth shouting about, Ballad & Dagger is something truly special. The first Rick Riordan Presents novel geared toward young adults, it is also, in my opinion, the most daring, ambitious, and memorable story Older has written yet, and that is saying a lot.